The Nationals placed pinch-hitter Chad Tracy on the disabled list with a groin injury and replaced him with Class AAA Syracuse outfielder Corey Brown, the hot-hitting 26-year-old who resurrected his career with a tremendous start to this season.
Tracy will receive an MRI in Philadelphia on Tuesday from the specialist who performed his double sports hernia operation in November. Tracy could miss “a couple months” if more surgery is necessary, Manager Davey Johnson said, but the Nationals are hopeful it will not come to that. The Nationals are calling the injury a right adductor strain.
With Tracy sidelined, Brown will get a second chance at the majors sooner than could have been expected last fall after a disastrous September call-up. Brown went 0 for 3, developed a staph infection and required season-ending surgery. After smashing 12 home runs – tops in the entire organization – and hitting .296 at Syracuse, Brown earned his way back.
“Last year, it still definitely felt like it, just kind of soaking it all in,” Brown said. “D.C.’s amazing. The clubhouse is unreal. So I kind of felt like a little kid walking in there. That’s the tough part. My three a-bs last year, it was tough. You go up there trying to relax. 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.”
Brown arrived in Florida yesterday at 5 p.m. in case the Nationals needed to place Tracy, their best bench player with nine pinch-hit RBIs, on the disabled list. Brown received the news he had been activated from traveling secretary Rob McDonald a half hour past midnight.
This morning, teammates kept telling him he had gotten more sleep than anyone. But “I didn’t sleep too much, either,” Brown said.
Before the Nationals pulled Brown from Syracuse’s lineup Saturday after Tracy got hurt, Brown had hit home runs in five consecutive games. His power surge came as something of a surprise. He hit 30 homers in the minors in 2008, but as he tried to cut down on strikeouts, his power diminished. Brown hit 14 home runs all of last season before his binge this year.
Brown made an adjustment at the plate, keeping the lower half of his body back longer before swinging, Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said. Brown also felt more relaxed this season, his second with Washington after coming over in the trade that sent Josh Willingham to Oakland.
“I think just being able to have more confidence,” Brown said. “I think last year I put a little more pressure on myself just coming over from the trade and just kind of downward spiraled after such a slow start. I just kind of put last year behind me, 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.”
Johnson will primarily use Brown off the bench as a left-handed pinch-hitter. Despite Brown’s hot streak, Rick Ankiel will remain the everyday center fielder.
The Nationals’ bench could become more crowded soon. Utility man Mark DeRosa is close to returning from an oblique strain, he and Johnson said. DeRosa completed a full workout Sunday and has taken batting practice with the Nationals two straight days.
In order to make room for Brown on the 40-man roster, the Nationals transferred Jayson Werth, out until late July or early August with a broken wrist, to the 60-day disabled list.