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Brown takes advantage of opportunity

April 22, 2006|By BOB PARASILITI

Usually, a thin line seperates opportunity and destiny.

In the case of Eric Brown, his immediate future may have been decided by the width of a fingernail.

The Hagerstown Suns relief pitcher stepped out of the bullpen and into an emergency start Friday when scheduled pitcher Jacobo Neguilis was scratched because of an ingrown nail.

By the end of his four-inning stint, Brown had the West Virginia Power chewing their nails.

Brown rolled through 13 hitters - one over the minimum - with a speedy, yet hitless performance before the game was suspended in a 0-0 tie after 3 innings by rain. Meanwhile, West Virginia's Robert Wooley held the Suns hitless through three innings. Both pitchers allowed two walks.

"Eric had good stuff and he kept the ball down in the zone," Hagerstown manager Frank Cacciatore said. "That's a good sign. Pitchers set the pace of the game. Their guy threw strikes and Eric did, too. That's a pretty good hitting team that we have had some close battles with, so he did a good job."

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The game opened with the threat of rain, maybe encouraging Brown and Wooley to work quickly to get the game in. Despite the late call, Brown looked fluid and kept West Virginia at bay with four strikeouts.

He issued a walk to Tony Festa to start the third, but the Power runner was caught stealing, and Angel Salome drew a two-out in the fourth during the downpour.

The game is scheduled to be completed June 7, when West Virginia returns to Municipal Stadium. The game will pick up in the bottom of the fourth and will be a nine-inning game, with the regularly scheduled game - now a seven-inning contest - to follow.

For Brown, his outing may have turned him from a mystery guest and last-minute replacement to a permanent resident for the Suns.

"The start is only temporary for (Brown)," Cacciatore said. "I don't know when Neguilis will be ready - it might be his next turn - but then Brown will be back in the bullpen. But the way he came out and threw these four innings, he might be someone we can look to when we need a starter when we need one for a doubleheader."

Friday's game was also the second straight with centerfielder Fernando Martinez in the starting lineup. The 17-year-old prospect was out of the lineup as a precaution after suffering a hand bruise during Wednesday's game.

"In this game, the hands and feet are so important," Cacciatore said. "He had a little bit of a bruise (on his hand) that you tend to get when you hit a running fastball or a cutter. It was a little nagging thing, but there was no use aggravating it."

As a young and prime prospect, precautions were taken to prevent Martinez from falling into any bad habits while he was trying to protect the bruise. Time off to heal is better than trying to unravel any problems that could come if he plays.

With that being said, Cacciatore assured that Martinez - along with 19-year-old middle infielders Jose Castro and Hector Pellot - won't be sitting much during the season.

"He'll be in there," Cacciatore said. "He was disappointed that he wasn't in today. He doesn't need much time off. He's 17. These guys haven't played a 140-game schedule before. It will be more like trying to jockey them through the season. Mostly, scheduled days off and rainouts will be their time off."

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