51s' Brown having bash since return from injury

Growing up in Texas, Andrew Brown said he was always the biggest kid on his baseball team.

“Big as in fat,” the 51s outfielder said. “I was the chubby kid who could hit and played everywhere.

“I’ll play wherever. I don’t care, as long as I get a chance to hit. That’s all I want to do.”

At 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, the 28-year-old Brown no longer is the biggest guy on his team, but he can still hit.

Brown leads the 51s with a .352 batting average and six triples, and he also has seven home runs, 40 RBIs and 36 runs in 38 games. On Saturday at Cashman Field, he hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the fifth inning and had two RBIs in the 51s’ 11-5 win over Colorado Springs.

Brown also has a strong throwing arm, which he displayed Friday when he threw out two Colorado Springs runners at second base from right field.

In his return from the disabled list June 7 at Tacoma, Brown homered on the second pitch he saw. Three nights later against Tacoma at Cashman, he came within inches of his first three-homer game, settling for two homers and a triple that hit off the 433-foot sign high atop the 20-foot center-field wall.

“If that oblique injury doesn’t happen, there’s probably a good chance he’s not here,” 51s manager Wally Backman said, implying Brown would be in the big leagues with the parent New York Mets. “He can swing the bat. When he’s in the lineup on a regular basis, without question he’s our best hitter right now.

“He’s going to get opportunities (in the majors) at some point. He’s got a lot of power, and he’s shown he can hit for average.”

A seventh-year pro out of Nebraska, Brown was promoted to the Mets on May 3 and went 3-for-15 (.200) with a homer and two RBIs in six games before being optioned May 13 to Las Vegas.

Brown had hits in his final three games for New York, homering in his last at-bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates, before the Mets sent him down to make room for Rick Ankiel.

“Being a bench role player in the big leagues might be the hardest thing in the (sports) world to do, because hitting a baseball is already the hardest thing in all of sports to do,” Brown said. “I was getting my swing back to where I wanted it at the end. I was feeling good, then they signed (Ankiel). That’s just the way it goes.”

A week after returning to Triple A, Brown was placed on the DL with the strained oblique.

“I feel I might have been back up if I hadn’t gotten hurt, but you’ve just got to roll with the punches,” he said.

The right-handed slugger launched a solo homer to left field in the first inning Monday and a two-run blast to left in the sixth. In the eighth, he drove a ball to deep center that he thought hit the recessed “Galleria at Sunset” banner above the wall — which would have counted as a home run.

“I thought it did, and every player I talked to said it did,” said Brown, who twirled his fingers above his head to signal a homer as he rounded first base. “It worked out fine, an RBI triple and I got the run anyway.”

Backman said he inspected the wall after the game.

“I walked out there and saw a spot on the wall, but a lot of people think it hit the Galleria sign,” he said.

A Pacific Coast League All-Star each of the past two seasons, Brown has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past three seasons. He batted .308 for Colorado Springs last year with career highs in homers (24) and RBIs (98) and hit .232 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 46 games for the Rockies.

He hit his first big league homer Aug. 25 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

“You can’t ask for a better first one,” Brown said. “A historic place like Wrigley Field and it goes out onto Waveland Avenue.”

Another fortunate first for Brown was his first call-up to the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him in the 18th round in 2007.

Brown made his debut for St. Louis in June 2011. Despite appearing in only 11 games, Brown received a World Series ring and a partial World Series share from the 2011 world champion Cardinals, who voted in his favor.

Brown received his ring in the mail early last season in Colorado Springs.

“That was a great package to get,” he said. “It was a great thing for my first call-up. I got a World Series ring out of it.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

■ WINNING/LOSING PITCHER: 51s, Justin Hampson (3-0); Sky Sox, Brett Jacobson (1-1)
■ HIGHLIGHTS: At Cashman Field, the 51s hit four homers, including three in the seventh, when Wilmer Flores and Zach Lutz went back-to-back to start the inning and Rylan Sandoval added a pinch-hit solo shot for an 11-5 lead. ... Las Vegas (35-32) snapped a three-game losing streak. ... Andrew Brown hit a tiebreaking leadoff homer in the fifth and added an RBI groundout in a three-run sixth for an 8-5 edge. ... Lutz had a two-run single among his three hits, and shortstop Brandon Hicks had two doubles among three hits to help offset his two errors. ... Rafael Montero allowed five runs (one earned) on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, with seven strikeouts and no walks in his first 51s start after being called up Saturday from Double-A Binghamton.
■ NEXT: Sky Sox (LHP Drew Pomeranz, 7-1, 4.75 ERA) at 51s (RHP Chris Schwinden, 3-6, 5.97), 12:05 p.m. today, KBAD-AM (920)