I usually don’t make it to spring training until the last week of March, but a University of Cincinnati basketball game in Tampa on Tuesday night, gave me the opportunity to spend Wednesday morning at the Red Sox camp in Ft. Myers.
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The first player I ran into was catcher Dusty Brown who flashed an ear-to-ear grin when I asked him about his son Jude who was born last July.
“He’s doing great,” Dusty told me. “He’s huge – off the charts. It’s been about seven months now and he’s getting ready to start crawling and walking so it’s exciting.”
Pitchers and catchers aren’t required to report to camp until tomorrow, but most of them worked out at the minor league complex this morning. For Brown, that meant lugging his catcher’s gear out to the field at roughly 9:00 am to catch several pitchers’ bullpen sessions beginning with Josh Beckett.
“It takes awhile to get back into the swing of things and catching in the bullpen is definitely taxing until your body is where it should be,” Dusty said. “But you know what? It’s better doing it in big league camp than in minor league camp.”
This is Brown’s 10th year in the Red Sox organization after being a 35th round draft pick in 2000. After spending most of the past two seasons in Triple-A Pawtucket, the 27-year-old catcher made his major league debut last year, appearing in one game for the Red Sox in June before returning to Boston when MLB rosters expanded in September.
The final week of the season was eventful to say the least. Dusty’s first major league hit was a home run over the Green Monster off of Cleveland’s Mike Gosling on October 3rd. But before getting that hit, Brown recorded a strikeout as a pitcher as he took the mound in the final inning of a 12-0 loss to Toronto on September 30th. Brown allowed one run on two hits and ended the inning by whiffing the Blue Jays’ Randy Ruiz.
“It was awesome,” Dusty told me. “I always wanted to pitch in a minor league game and never had the chance to do it, and then I get to the big leagues and they put me on the mound for an inning. That was pretty fun. And then hitting my home run and getting a curtain call at Fenway . . . it was just a great week and it makes you want to be up there that much more.”
Two years ago, Brown had an excellent offensive season for the PawSox batting .290 with a .377 OBP and a .471 slugging percentage. Last year, those numbers dropped to .264/.345/.329 and Dusty is looking to bounce back in 2010.
“I just want to be consistent at the plate which I wasn’t last year,” Brown said. “I had a couple of good weeks right at the end to get my average up, but I obviously hope the power comes back this year. But ultimately I’m a catcher first and if my defense gets me to the big leagues I’ll be happy. That’s my ultimate goal. It looks like I’m probably not going to start the season there, but if I can get back up like I did last year that would be great.”