The new Gary Brown is in a hurry to make Giants fans forget what they saw over the first two months of the season. And with good reason.
A reinvented Brown, the Giants' top prospect, is suddenly looking a lot like the 2011 edition that destroyed Cal League pitching in his first full season in the Minors. A promotion to Double-A this spring put added pressure on him, and a subtle flaw in his batting mechanics produced a dismal April.
Brown is a new man these days, though. He collected two hits in each half of Friday's doubleheader at Harrisburg, making it seven straight multi-hit games and hits in 27 of his last 29 starts. The 23-year-old outfielder singled, doubled and scored in Double-A Richmond's 4-0 win in Game 1 before singling twice and stealing three bases in a 3-2 loss in the nightcap.
"My balance was really off from the get-go," Brown said. "I was doing a lot of things wrong mechanically that I haven't done before. I was really closing myself off and pitchers were doing a good job throwing inside pitches that I couldn't touch because I was burying my hands and burying my shoulders. I've made some adjustments and, with a little luck, things have turned my way a little more."
Brown took a while to adjust to Double-A pitching after ripping Cal League hurlers with a .336 average in a breakout 2011 season with Class A Advanced San Jose. He hit .227 in April and .258 with five RBIs in 30 games in May. And by the time June rolled around, MiLB.com's 2011 Class A Advanced Hitter of the Year had just one homer and 17 RBIs.
The Giants had seen enough. The organization studied the 2010 first-round Draft pick and noticed a hitch in his stride at the plate. An altered leg kick was making him late to the ball, and Eastern League pitchers took advantage.
Brown made an adjustment and, bingo, results.
"He's getting his bat through the zone and driving the ball better," Richmond hitting coach Ken Joyce told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. "He's getting more doubles and putting more backspin on the ball than he was at the beginning of the season. We eliminated the pre-step to get him to relax a little bit. He's seeing the ball better than he did in the beginning of the season.
"He bought into what we're trying to do. It's a matter of making a change to make him a big league hitter."
Brown, a Cal State-Fullerton product who had 80 RBIs last year, has been a rampage since changing his approach. He hit .294 in June and is batting .464 in 12 games this month to get his average up to .292.
Brown has multiple hits in 20 of his last 29 games and has scored 13 runs in July.
"There were a lot of times when I was down on myself," he said. "That's baseball. I had to tell myself at one point, 'You can't pity yourself. You've got to go into work and put the time in.' That's what I was doing. I wasn't giving up."
Friday's second game was Brown's first three-steal performance of the year and just the second time he's stolen a base since June 22.
"It's really just committing to it," he said. "I haven't been committing to it as much as I'd like. My first couple steps haven't been as explosive as they should be. I'm just trying to get better."
Brown led off Friday's opener with a double and scored when rehabbing right-hander Chien-Ming Wang threw away Ehire Adrianza's bunt. He singled again in the fifth but was thrown out stealing to end the inning.
The California native started Game 2 with a strikeout but singled and stole second in the third. He singled again and stole second and third in the fifth but was left stranded.
Brown's 2011 season included about a dozen honors and accolades after he batted .336 with 14 homers, 80 RBIs, 53 steals and a .408 on-base percentage. He was named Cal League Rookie of the Year a midseason and postseason All-Star, an MiLB.com Giants Organization All-Star, a Topps Class A All-Star and a Baseball America Minor League and Class A Advanced All-Star. Brown also was selected to the All-Star Futures Game in Arizona.
This year, he's batting .352 against left-handed pitchers and .280 with runners on base. He's confident that with the changes he's made, he can keep up his recent success.
"I know now I'm making my adjustments from pitch to pitch rather than game to game or at-bat to at-bat," Brown said. "I feel like I did last year, I feel good right now. I think you learn a lot from yourself when you go through some bad times and come out of it."