Brown Soars Out Of Gates

Speedster off to a hot start

SAN FRANCISCO—Gary Brown always seems to be moving in fast-forward on the field. His minor league development looks to be on the fast track, too.
Brown, a first-round pick in last year's draft, flat-out dominated in his first month at high Class A San Jose. He was batting .357/.438/.492 with 19 steals in 28 attempts.

Brown, 22, hit another gear in a May series at Bakersfield. In the opener, he matched the San Jose single-game record for hits by going 5-for-6, and his six RBIs fell one short of equaling another club mark. A multidimensional threat, Brown had a bunt single and a three-run double among his hits. Brown didn't stop there. He was 3-for-4 the following day with two more RBIs, and he finished the series 9-for-14 with four doubles, eight RBIs and two stolen bases.

All the while, he has used his premium speed to run down balls in center field. The Giants knew his defensive skills would play at any level, and they are thrilled with the way his bat has responded against California League pitching. A move up to Double-A Richmond may come soon.

Brown's hot start is especially impressive because his pro debut was delayed last year because he broke his hand before the Giants selected him 24th overall out of Cal State Fullerton. He was leading the Big West with a .438 average and .695 slugging percentage when he broke the hand on a slide May 16, forcing him to miss the NCAA super regionals.

After the Giants drafted him, Brown said he was much more than a slap-and-dash hitter. He went a combined 7-for-44 between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Salem-Keizer when he finally got on the field last summer. Based on his first month with San Jose, it looks like that Big West-leading slugging percentage was no fluke.


• Righthander Heath Hembree was off to a roaring start as the closer for San Jose. In his first 12 games, the College of Charleston product posted a 0.82 ERA and struck out 20 in 11 innings while recording eight saves.

• The Giants are using exciting but erratic lefthander Ryan Verdugo in the rotation at Richmond to get him more innings and help him work on command issues. Through five starts, Verdugo's 2.16 ERA ranked sixth in the Eastern League; he had nine walks and 25 strikeouts in 25 innings.