Brown ready to prove value as fourth outfielder
Out of options, longtime Minor Leaguer believes he can fill role with Nats
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals will enter the Winter Meetings looking for a fourth outfielder, and they would prefer a left-handed-hitter who could, for example, replace Bryce Harper in case he is out for a lengthy period because of an injury.
The Nats want a hitter who can produce off the bench the way Roger Bernadina did in 2012, when they won the National League East title. Not only was Bernadina a consistent hitter, he was also an excellent defender.
The Nationals could try and trade for a player such as Cubs outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who provided power off the bench. This past season, Schierholtz had career highs in home runs (21) and RBIs (68).
However, Corey Brown said Monday the team doesn't have to look too far, as he believes he can be the team's fourth outfielder in 2014. Brown pointed out that he is out of options, so this may be his last chance to show Washington what he can do on the diamond.
According to Brown, he already has had a talk with general manager Mike Rizzo about possibly filling that role. Rizzo informed Brown that the team released Bernadina this past August and was interested in Brown being that fourth outfielder. Brown, obviously, realizes that he has to earn the job.
"I feel with what I bring to the table, I can be that fourth outfielder," Brown said. "Talking to some of the players and the coaches -- especially [bench coach] Randy Knorr, who I have a good relationship with -- I feel like they have my back on that decision.
"But at the end of the day, I still have to perform in Spring Training. Someone who is in my shoes, who is out of options, it could be a good thing. I think that I can do a good job filling that role. I'm not your typical 23-year-old rookie anymore. ... I think I would do a good job of filling in wherever they would need me -- whether it's defense or hitting."
One thing that Brown must do is stay healthy, something the 27-year-old hasn't been able to do since the Nationals acquired his services from the Athletics in December 2010. He has had ankle, knee and oblique injuries during his time in the organization.
"The biggest thing this offseason is getting my body back to being 100 percent, trying to be in the best shape possible," Brown said. "After I got traded, there was a window I could have taken advantage of. I got hurt [during the spring of 2011] and it turned out to be a rough season for the most part. I really didn't figure it out until the end.
"Then Harper was able to get to the big leagues. That window that I had got a lot smaller. Now I have to make the most of the opportunity that I do get. Now that I'm 27, I understand that my role will be that fourth guy. I have to make the most of it. Whenever I get a chance to start, when one of the guys needs a day off, hopefully I can go out there and do what I'm capable of doing. I want to earn a spot for a while, instead of bouncing up and down through the Minors."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.