MIAMI — Corey Brown’s first major league call-up, last September, was derailed by a staph infection in his right knee. So when the Washington Nationals pulled him from Triple-A Syracuse’s lineup Saturday afternoon, shortly after Chad Tracy came up lame rounding first base, he thought his second chance might have come.
Brown didn’t sleep a whole lot the past two days, but neither did the rest of his Nationals teammates. But he flew in to Miami around 5 p.m. Sunday evening and waited for the call that he would actually be used. The Nationals placed Chad Tracy on the 15-day disabled list Monday with right adductor strain and moved Jayson Werth (broken wrist) to the 60-day disabled list to accommodate Brown on the team’s 40-man roster.
Tracy will travel to Philadelphia Monday evening to visit with Dr. Bill Meyers on Tuesday, who performed his double sports hernia surgery in November, and get an MRI to determine the extent of his issue. If he requires surgery, manager Davey Johnson speculated he would be out a number of months.
“I’m hopeful that it’s something with less demanding recovery time,” Johnson said. Tracy has been the Nationals’ top pinch hitter — the most productive pinch hitter in the major leagues, in fact — so losing him would be a blow to a bench that Johnson points out often how much he loves.
Brown will come of the bench, much the same way Tyler Moore has since his call-up at the end of April, but Brown’s addition also pushes Moore back to the infield almost exclusively. A natural first baseman, Moore had just begun to play left field when the Nationals called him up and all five of his starts have come there. Roger Bernadina can also be used as a left-handed bat off the bench with Steve Lombardozzi figuring to see the most playing time in left field before Michael Morse returns.
Brown, who hit .297 with nine doubles, four triples and 12 homers, had homered in five straight games before the Nationals pulled him from the lineup on Saturday night. He’d also reached base safely in 14 straight games. After a dismal 2011 season, that was capped off with his ill-timed infection shortly after rosters expanded, Brown’s 2012 has been a pleasant surprise.
“I think just being able to have more confidence,” Brown said, asked what the difference has been this year. “I think last year I put a little more pressure on myself just coming over from the trade (from Oakland) and being on the 40-man. I just kind of downward spiraled after such a slow start.
“I just kind of put last year behind me and building off the spring and I think it’s helped me a lot and it’s felt good. just trying to keep the confidence going and hopefully when I get here I can do the same.”
Brown had been hitting mostly leadoff at Syracuse, a relatively new thing for him, he said, but it was working out well and while manager Tony Beasley was asked often if he’d consider moving Brown down with all of the power he was showing, Brown grew comfortable there. He did say, however, that he doesn’t know if he’d be ready to jump right into a leadoff role at the major league level.
“In college and the beginning of my professional career I hit more homers,” Brown said. “It wasn’t something that I ever tried to get rid of, it was more that I tried to cut down my strikeouts. I did (cut them down) a little bit but obviously they’re still there.
“This year it wasn’t like I went in there trying to hit a lot of homers. I think they just kind of came with the elements and I was able to get some balls to carry out.”
As he unpacked his stuff Monday morning, whatever it was — confidence or power — it earned Brown his second major league call-up. He appreciated his first one, calling Washington “amazing” and the clubhouse at Nationals Park “unreal” but felt that experience also might help him to relax more this time than he was able to last year in the minimal playing time he got.
“I kind of felt like a little kid walking in there, still, trying to be accepting of everything around you,” Brown said. “That’s the tough part. My three at-bats last year, it was tough. You go up there trying to relax. So I still have that feeling. I still have that excitement, obviously. Hopefully I can be a little more relaxed when the day comes but I’ll still have that feeling inside.”