It probably will come as no surprise to Padre fans to learn that third baseman Chris Brown has already suffered his first injury as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
This time, Brown’s back has been bothering him, and to those who have followed his career closely, the only question is: What will be next?
The term nagging injury could have been coined for Brown. He had so many of them in his year and a half with the Padres that they couldn’t wait to unload him. Just 26 days after the 1988 season ended, they found a buyer in the Tigers, who took him and another Padre flop--first baseman/outfielder Keith Moreland--for pitcher Walt Terrell.
Judging from what Terrell is expected to do for the Padres and what Brown and Moreland didn’t do for them, the deal may have been the steal of the year.
Brown, 27, has picked up where he left off in San Diego. His aching back has kept him out of five exhibition games and limited him to 37 at-bats. He has nine hits for a .243 average.
(As an aside, Moreland is batting .073--three for 41--and hasn’t had a hit in his last 22 at-bats.)
Despite his shaky start, Brown has changed for the better in one respect this spring. Instead of pouting, he is upbeat. Even though he stretches his credibility a bit when he says, “There wasn’t anything wrong with me last year.”
This might be a shock to Larry Bowa and Jack McKeon, the Padre managers who kept waiting for Brown to say he was ready to play.
The log of Brown’s 1988 injuries reads like something out of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not.”
First, he suffered a bruised tooth when a ball bounced up and hit him in the mouth during batting practice. Then, he hurt his right thumb while landing a punch on teammate Marvell Wynne in a clubhouse brawl. Finally, he tripped while walking off the field, twisting his right ankle.
Both Bowa and McKeon were convinced that Brown was a malingerer. Before Bowa was fired on May 28, he told Brown, “Come to me when you can play.” McKeon played Brown for a while but eventually gave up on him.
Offering his version of what happened, Brown said, “Larry tried to get me to bat the way he batted, to use his stance. When everything didn’t work his way, he started benching me. If I didn’t get a hit, I didn’t play the next day. Toward the end, Jack didn’t play me either.”
Brown appeared in 80 games, batting 247 times and hitting .235.
Just two years earlier, Brown hit .317 for the San Francisco Giants and played in the All-Star Game. But he was injured twice by pitched balls in 1987, suffering a broken jaw while with the Giants and a broken right hand after being traded to the Padres. Since then, his career has gone downhill.
Brown spent 63 days on the disabled list in 1987 but, strangely, none at all last year.
Talking like a man with new determination, Brown said, “I want to shake the reputation everybody put on me in San Diego and San Francisco. I think I’ll get a better chance in Detroit. Working with weights, I’ve got my strength up, and my body fat is lower than it’s ever been. I seem to get stronger and stronger.”
Of his new manager, Sparky Anderson, Brown said, “I know he has confidence in me. That makes me feel more relaxed.”
Anderson confirmed Brown’s last statement both in words and action last week.
“He’ll be my third baseman,” he said. “There’s no choice there. He’s the man.”
He backed that up Thursday when he traded Tom Brookens, the Tigers’ regular third baseman last year, to the New York Yankees for pitcher Charles Hudson and dealt Luis Salazar, who also can play third, to the Padres for shortstop Mike Brumley.
Brookens, 35, hit just .243 with five home runs last season. Anderson wants more sock at the position.
Brown said it didn’t matter who he was competing against for a starting spot.
“It’s Chris Brown against Chris Brown,” he said. “If I play every day, everything will take care of itself.”