Minor League Notebook : Outfielder Finds His Way Back to the Angels' Fold

Outfielder Mike Brown wasn't too happy when the Angels traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August, 1985, in the John Candelaria deal. But he was willing to make the most of it.

In a little more than 200 at-bats with the Pirates, the left fielder hit .332 with five home runs and 35 runs batted in. Not a bad month. But Brown couldn't change the fact that the Pirates were a ship sinking to the bottom of the National League East. During the off-season, Manager Chuck Tanner and General Manager Joe L. Brown got the ax, and the new faces, General Manager Syd Thrift and Manager Jim Leyland, didn't share Tanner's enthusiasm for Brown's game.

"I got caught in something I couldn't control," Brown said. "After all those changes, it was all downhill for me. Instead of starting, I was sitting on the bench.

"The way I look at things, you should have a job until you lose it. You shouldn't lose a job because of personality differences. But that's what happened. I just never hit it off with the new management. It was a big adjustment for me."

But the adjustments were just beginning. After spending 1 1/2 seasons alternating between the Pirates' bench and minor-league system, Brown was released by Pittsburgh on March 31, 1987. In the next five months, he signed with and eventually was released by the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago White Sox.

"I couldn't latch on anywhere," Brown said. "I just couldn't recover."

But things are looking up for Brown. Two weeks ago, the Angels' triple-A Edmonton farm club purchased his contract from the Detroit organization. Brown hopes his return to the Angels will rejuvenate his game.

"The ball's in my court," he said. "I feel really good here. I know the organization and I know I'll get a good shot here. This is the best possible place for me to be."

Brown said he has matured since he left the Angels.

"Back then, I was used to starting and I wasn't mentally ready or open to any kind of part-time role," he said. "I was an everyday player, and I didn't want to consider any other role.

"But now, I'm eager to perform any role they ask of me. If it's being a pinch-hitter or whatever, I'm happy to do it. I just want to get back to the majors."

Whatever happened to Ron Romanick?

As far as Angel fans are concerned, he went on strike and never returned.

A right-handed finesse pitcher with good control, Romanick led the Angels' pennant drive that fell one game short in 1985. He reached the All-Star break with a 13-4 record, and it appeared that his future was bright. Then came the one-day players' strike and the first of a series of foot injuries.

Romanick finished the season 14-9 and, though he remained in the starting rotation at the beginning of the '86 season, he never regained his form. After he started 5-8 in '86, the Angels sent him to Edmonton and later traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I haven't been able to turn it around," said Romanick, who is now pitching for the triple-A Denver Zephyrs in the Milwaukee organization. "It's very frustrating, because I've basically been trying to bounce back for three years now. I've got a neck injury now that's really got me hobbled. I'm really struggling."

Until recently, Romanick was a starter. But he was moved into the bullpen and has been used sparingly in middle relief.

"I wasn't getting the job done, so they moved me down," he said. "What can you say? I'm not pitching the way they think or I think I'm capable of. It's something I can't shake, but I don't know what to say about it."

Former Angel Ron Jackson still hopes to make it back to the big leagues, but he's hedging his bet.

Jackson, a utility player who served two stints with the Angels (1975-78 and 1982-84), is a player/coach with triple-A Vancouver. He's now inactive, but he has played in 18 games and hit .176 with one home run and five RBIs.

"I want to get back to the majors, one way or the other," said Jackson, 35. "I just need one year and seven days to get my 10 years of major-league service. I still consider myself a player. That isn't something I've given up on."

Jackson, who had a .259 career average in the majors, never was a power hitter. His best year as an Angel was 1978, when he hit .297 with six homers and 57 RBIs. But his versatility was well-documented.

"I've done everything except pitch or catch," he said. "I always figured if I could play more than one position, I would have a better chance to play."

Now Jackson's taking that philosophy one step further. If he doesn't make it back to the majors as a player, he can begin his second career that much sooner.

"Someday, I want to be a third-base coach or a hitting instructor. I'm not choosy," he said. "I'm doing a little bit of everything now so I'll be ready for whatever comes up."

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