Phillies option Brown to Triple-A Lehigh Valley

An All-Star in 2013, outfielder struggled during Minor League rehab stint

Phillies option Brown to Triple-A Lehigh Valley

ST. LOUIS -- Domonic Brown probably had a few reasons to assume he would rejoin the Phillies on Wednesday.

But after finishing a 20-day rehab assignment, the Phillies on Tuesday announced Brown had been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It is a significant decision, considering Brown is a former National League All-Star making $2.5 million this season. The Phillies have not optioned a player with that type of salary since July 2008, when they sent Brett Myers ($8.5 million) to Triple-A. But Myers had to accept his assignment because he had five years of service time.

Brown had no choice.

"Clearly, as one can imagine, if you were in the same shoes you wouldn't be happy, either," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who spoke with Brown. "I mean, I don't blame him for not being happy. And I don't know that he necessarily agrees with the decision, but it is our decision to make. And I do think we're doing it in the best interest of Domonic Brown and the Phillies."

Brown opened the season on the 15-day disabled list because of tendinitis in his left Achilles. He hit .294 (5-for-17) with one double, one home run, three RBIs and a .929 OPS in six games on a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Clearwater. But in nine games with Lehigh Valley, he hit .139 (5-for-36) with one double, three RBIs and a .405 OPS.

Brown had spent the past 12 days with Lehigh Valley, but The Express-Times reported he was not with the team Tuesday. Brown has 72 hours to report to the team after being optioned.

Brown told Lehigh Valley reporters Sunday he would be in St. Louis on Wednesday. But Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Monday at Busch Stadium that "from what I've seen, I don't know that he's ready for Major League pitching or to come up and really give us a punch, the way that things have gone for him there."

That is saying something because the Phillies are desperate for offense. They entered Tuesday night's game against the Cardinals averaging 2.65 runs per game, which is the lowest average in baseball this season and the fifth-lowest average in baseball since 1900.

Outfielder Grady Sizemore and Jeff Francoeur have been sharing right field while Brown has been out. Sizemore, who hits left-handed like Brown, entered Tuesday hitting .133 (4-for-30) with one double, one RBI and a .328 OPS. Francoeur, who hits right-handed, was hitting .200 (11-for-55) with three doubles, two home runs, four RBIs and a .630 OPS.

"We're not trying to hold anybody back if they're able to help us," Amaro said.

Brown, 27, certainly has plenty to prove this season. He hit just .235 with 22 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 63 RBIs and a .634 OPS in 144 games last season. His OPS ranked 139th out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball. His .641 OPS as an outfielder ranked 60th out of 64 outfielders, and his .641 OPS as a left fielder was the lowest of any left fielder since Chuck Knoblauch's .582 OPS for Kansas City in 2002.

"The bottom line is we think he's a very talented player and needs to play a little better and at a higher level to be back here playing at the Major League level," Amaro said. "He's getting closer. I talked to Charlie [Manuel] today. He's getting closer to having that rhythm. He hasn't gotten there yet. We don't think he's very far away, but he's got some things to work on to be a more consistent performer.

"It's a performance-based industry and we know Domonic has the ability to do things at a very, very high level at the Major League level. We're working to try to get him back there as soon as possible. At this stage of the game we don't feel he's ready to do that consistently. When he is and when he does he'll be back."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone. Follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.