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Brown wants to keep things simple this year

Talented right-hander looking to rebound with a more consistent season

Brown wants to keep things simple this year
Brown went 3-5 with a 6.78 ERA in 17 games last season. (Photo: IBI)
February 13, 2014
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Thousands fall victim to baseball’s complexity, but Mitch Brown’s approach embodies an opposite route: keep things simple.

Brown, 19, was the Cleveland Indians’ second-round pick of the 2012 draft. The Minnesota native spent his first professional season with the Arizona League Indians, where he posted a 2-0 record, 2.6 strikeout-to-walk-ratio and 3.58 ERA through eight games.

This past season proved to be more of a challenge to Brown, who had a brief stint with the low-A Lake County Captains before returning to the Arizona League.

Brown was excited to head to Lake County, where he was assigned to start the year. He said he was thankful for his host family, Hellen and Bill Collins, who made him feel at home. Despite feeling comfortable off the field, Brown said adjusting to the spotlight on the field was a bit unnerving.

“It’s something I’m not used to,” he explained. “You do the best you can to block it out, but when you’ve never experienced something like that, it’s definitely a big difference.”

Commanding the strike zone was also an obstacle Brown battled through five starts in Lake County, where he posted a 1-1 record and 11.49 ERA. As he fought to steady his numbers, he also fought to stay ahead.

“I think I really shot myself in the foot when I’d get behind in the counts last year,” he said. “I’d put myself in tough positions to be in and have to work out of them constantly.”

Overall, Brown felt he may have had too much going on, both mentally and physically. He’s worked with team training staff on relaxing and breathing, something that is often overlooked on the mound.

“I think last year, there were certain times when I just had too many things going on in my delivery,” he explained. “I think when I’m struggling, I’ll just try to tell myself to keep it simple, and not outsmart myself too much.”

A late-May injury sent Brown back to Arizona. The right-hander suffered a strained bicep that led to more than two months of rehab. Brown said the injury was frustrating, but he found a way to turn the tough situation into a prime opportunity.

“In a situation like that, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. “I tried to keep a positive attitude and once I was out in Arizona rehabbing, obviously it was disappointing, but the silver lining was that it took pressure off me. It was easier for me to work on some things.”

The biggest difference between rookie ball and low-A ball was the spotlight created by higher competition and heavier crowds.

“It’s a little bit different when you’re out there in front of 500, 600, even 2,000 people rather than when you’re just playing games with your teammates,” he recalled. “When I was down there in Arizona, it just kind of took the pressure off me.”

Brown said he was able to relax and focus on pitching without the weight of heavy competition. He may have been able to pitch with a clear head, but organization pitching coaches made some adjustments with his head during his delivery. Brown worked on keeping his head straight toward the plate and remaining tall throughout his delivery with the aim to put more downward angle on the ball.

The organization’s pitching staff seemed to steer Brown in the right direction. Dave Swanson, Scott Erickson and Juan Alzarez worked with Brown, who said he took pieces of advice from each coach to morph one form.

“I took a little bit from each one of those guys and kind of put it in my delivery,” Brown said.

Improvement appeared successful for the second half of Brown’s season. 12 games with the Arizona League Indians produced a 2-4 record, 57 hits, and a 5.37 ERA and 1.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio for Brown.

With minor league report dates looming, Brown’s looking ahead to the 2014 season, where he plans to continue his approach at keeping things simple. Though he has goals set for himself, he said they’re not achievements that can necessarily be seen in the box scores.

“Most of them are things that aren’t going to show in the stat book,” he said. “It’s not something you’ll be able to look on a spreadsheet and say, ‘Well he attained that goal.’ A lot of it has to do with getting more comfortable on the mound, get better throwing strikes and doing the small things that are going to help me win and be more successful down the road.”

Overall, Brown’s plan adheres to his “keep it simple” approach: stay healthy, throw strikes, and gain confidence in the offspeed pitches. He’s comfortable with his fastball and typically turns to his curve as his out pitch, but the change-up is where the most improvement awaits, he said.

Now, Brown is enjoying the remainder of the offseason, which has also been relatively simple. He’s spent his time hunting and catching up with friends and family. He’ll head to Goodyear, Ariz. on the 25th, a setting to which he’s grown accustomed.

“It’s a different atmosphere and it’s probably good for me, being in Minnesota my whole life,” he noted.

The competition may be growing tougher and the stat lines may start to hover, but Brown knows better than to complicate the game he loves.

“Playing baseball every day, it doesn’t get any better than that,” he said.

Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.

User Comments

February 17, 2014 - 3:43 PM EST

Great article!

He is only 19. He had bad year in Lake County, but rebounded in second half in AZL which is a hitters league. I agree with Helen that Mitch Brown will have comeback year.
February 15, 2014 - 12:19 PM EST
Hey, just read the article about Mitch Brown. We were his host parents last year in Lake County. A wonderful, dedicated baseball player with a level head on his shoulders. We have confidence in his return to Lake County this year and are looking forward to a star status. Welcome Back Mitch!!!
February 14, 2014 - 11:18 AM EST
Steph- nice to have you in the house for the 2014 season- seems your pro career is advancing and you are still taking time to do these Indian prospect feature interviews to share with us. Everyone enjoys them- it seems like focus now is on arcane stat algorithms and the human back story is ignored. Thank you. And the DWA video- glad you could laugh at it, dude is like an ersatz Borat- hopefully he has some better material somewhere.
February 14, 2014 - 10:14 AM EST
This does not look promising. The worst part about it is that it exposes the silly philosophy behind that draft. Nabbing Naquin there, valued at late 1st round at best, and saving money for this. His Texas A&M teammate was still available and the Cards wisely grabbed him, with next pick the Nats took Giolito, Dodgers took Seager ... This is not Monday morning quarterbacking. I watched the drafted and did a huh? As did the MLB crew. The Indians need to offer a good bit of money to the #2 person in STL or BOS or maybe ATL. Because we need to eventually draft well. And I am rooting for Naquin, don't get me wrong.

I remember an article about Atlanta's drafting of local GA kid Heyward and the hope against hope that he would last til their no 12 pick (I think) in 2007. A lot of big early talent that year, then Matt LaPorta etc,at 7 but the big hush moment in Atlanta boardroom came when Marlins had to choose at 10. They picked Matt Dominguez. Hurray! Champagne popping! We got our man. What is so annoying is that the Indians had the 11th pick and we of course flubbed it with a Beau Mills but Atlanta knew that going in, at least according to this article. They would go on to pick Freeman in 2nd round too. And Marlins would get Stanton in 2nd so they made up for a marginal, not bad yet, pick.

Maybe we have turned that corner draft wise but ... kind of doubt it. Have to always get best available in 1st. Always.
Joe Chengery
February 14, 2014 - 3:55 AM EST
Exactly- that's why I'm not convinced about the "draft picks" for Ubaldo and Masterson arguments. I like building through the farm system as much as anyone, but the Indians have not done a good job with drafting largely over the last 20 years, and especially when it comes to developing dominant starting pitching (the last one before Salazar was Sabathia 2000-2001, before that Colon and Wright around 1997-1998, and before that, well... Position player-wise hasn't been much better - Kipnis a few years ago, but before that, Peralta around 2003-2004, before that, uhh, not sure- Giles or Burnitz in the late 90s, then Thome and Ramirez in the early 90s, then Belle in the late 80s. Note I was focusing on those that the Indians drafted, NOT trades).

Provided the Indians even pick guys who do develop, it will be at least three years minimum we see anything from them, probably 4-6 years before they provide anything of real, sustained value to the Indians, so we're looking end of the decade, 2020s, to get anything from those picks, even IF they do develop. Of course, that will do virtually nothing for this group of Indians and this window- Santana and Brantley will likely be gone by that point, probably Kipnis too, even Masterson too if he is extended. The hope is that Lindor, Moncrief, Aguilar, Frazier, and hopefully, Salazar, are still here as the next window, for those picks to truly benefit us.

In addition, still have reservations that investing a lot of years and dollars in Masterson is the right move - if he costs more in dollars, years, or both over Jimenez, I'm not certain he is the right one to sign. Yes, he's a nice guy, and maybe the "better" teammate over Jimenez, but that still doesn't make him a better pitcher or a better value over Jimenez. If you could resign both to appropriate value deals, that would be the best outcome, but being that you probably can only resign one, I'm not convinced that Masterson is the right choice.

I'm hopeful it works out, since I think that's the direction the Indians are heading in, but I do have reservations and concerns about it, and especially if you could have Jimenez cheaper, or if you fail to get either, as you'll have two draft picks for your two best pitchers. Besides the fact that the odds are long that the picks will work out based on the Indians' recent draft "success," I think the PR backlash could be quite harsh, and more talk of "Dolan being cheap" will start spreading again, which will likely affect attendance again. This will especially be true if the Indians take a step back in 2014 (hopefully, that won't be the case, but the possibility does exist if things don't gel together as well and/or as quickly as expected. Like others, I, too, would feel more comfortable with another proven starting option, and I do think Jimenez is the best option, especially for the Indians).
February 14, 2014 - 1:04 AM EST
You're right Joe, Dillon Howard is EVEN MORE of a bust than Brown. He's going on his third year of purgatory though, so it's really getting to be do or die with him.

Its kinda amazing that both '11 and '12 2nd round picks are doing spectacularly bad after being praised by so many as great picks at the time.
Joe Chengery
February 13, 2014 - 9:35 PM EST
I think he's taking that "approach" because he put too much pressure in himself last year with the higher competition, larger crowds, etc. I don't think we should read into those statements, "that's all I care about." I'm sure he knows the situation and the urgency to rebound after what was largely a lost year, but he doesn't want to psych himself out over that.

A better concern for what you're suggesting would be more toward RHP Dillon Howard- he IS one who I do question whether he has the right mindset and make-up- he definitely has to show something significant this year, or his chances of being a severe "miss" as a draft pick will likely shoot through the roof. After all, he has done next-to-nothing for two (really three) years, and is older than Brown, plus was drafted in the same round as Brown (2nd Rd.), but in 2011.
February 13, 2014 - 8:13 PM EST
Yeah, he says his goals are not necessarily going to "show up in the stat book". So he'll be happy just to feel more comfortable and get the ball in the strike zone more often, even if it means his stats still suck?

It doesn't seem like he feels much sense of urgency.
February 13, 2014 - 4:41 PM EST
Nice piece Stephanie. I have to say though, it sure doesn't make me feel good about Brown. Wow, still focused on "getting more comfortable on the mound"?? It feels like he's a long way off from contributing in any substantial way.

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