VANCOUVER -- Vancouver Canadians manager Clayton McCullough and pitching coach Jim Czajkowski share the same sentiment when it comes to pitcher Eric Brown, the former UBC Thunderbird from Thunder Bay. They love him but they don't want to see much of him this season.
It's strictly business, of course. They want to see Brown move up a rung in the Toronto Blue Jays' system rather than spend a third year with the short-season Single A Canadians. Like a blood-red steak, it's very rare for a player to spend three years in the Northwest League. If you can't move up after two at this level, you're probably moving out.
Brown, 24, seems to be the exception.
“Eric has a lot of value to us,” Czajkowski explained Tuesday before the C's edged the Spokane Indians 5-4 in 12 innings at Nat Bailey Stadium to break a three-game losing streak. “He's looked upon very highly by our organization, maybe not like a top prospect, but he's what I call a glue guy. He can do multiple things... start, relieve and close a game.
“He's not just a stereotypical starter, or just a reliever, and he's a hard worker. So that creates value. When we feel we don't have anything for a guy, we'll let him go and there is certainly a place for Eric Brown with us.”
As a 50th-round draft pick in 2011, Brown has a lot of bodies ahead of him on the Blue Jays' depth chart. There was no room for him on the Jays' full-season single A Lansing Lugnuts so he stayed in Florida for extended spring training. Discouraged? Well, who wouldn't be?
“Obviously the goal is to get moved up so if I said I wasn't discouraged, it would be a lie,” nodded Brown, who still has a few courses left at UBC to complete his kinesiology degree. “Where I stand in the organization is something I don't really know. They don't keep me in the loop with that but I'm just happy to have the opportunity to be playing and I look to take advantage of every opportunity they give me.
“You have to do what you can,” Brown added. “You can't go through the game looking at all the negatives or you won't make it. So I just try to give them a reason to keep me around.”
Brown was a starter at UBC but has mostly been a reliever for the C's. The organization attempted to turn him back into a starter in 2012, a plan that didn't go well and he wound up in the pen once again.
“Eric had some bad luck and misfortunes in the starter's role and he struggled there so we put him back in the bullpen,” said Czajkowski. “This year, we started him as a reliever in spring training and then slowly spread him out some. He became a starter down there and he continues to start now.
“He did really well his first time out (two hits in five innings) and you just have to hope the cards eventually fall in his favour and he gets to move up. Like Clayton said, I hope we don't see him here for very long.”
Brown, who is scheduled to start Wednesday's 1 p.m. matinee at The Nat, won't dispute that.
“I love being here,” he concluded, “but I'd like to move up, too. Obviously.”
C-NOTES: Canadians shortstop Jason Leblebijian singled home Nico Taylor from second base with the winning run Tuesday night in a game that took 4:09 to play and ended at 11:11 p.m... The teams used 12 pitchers, who combined for 26 strikeouts and 14 walks. Five errors were commited, four by Spokane, including one by Indians catcher Marcus Greene on a dropped third strike with two outs in the bottom of the ninth... Centrefielder Ian Parmley led the C's offensively with two hits, two RBI, two stolen bases and a run scored... C's starter Colton Turner went six strong and allowed four hits and one earned run while striking out five and walking one... Tuesday's attendance was 3,906.
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