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Phils hitters paying heed to being more selective

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel has noticed that Domonic Brown is getting a little more picky, and the manager likes it.

In addition to all the other improvements the outfielder's made, Manuel noticed recently that Brown was getting more selective in his at-bats this spring. The 25-year-old outfielder drew three walks Friday against the Yankees, and for the most part, he's swinging at good pitches to hit.

Part of that is just Brown's maturation, of course, but the rest of it is by design. It's a somewhat familiar refrain for the Phillies, but it's back again this spring: Manuel said he and his coaching staff have been preaching patience and pitch selection more often and more loudly this year, and he hopes it pays dividends throughout the lineup.

"That's real good to see, but I think also that comes from the fact that we're definitely talking more," Manuel said Friday. "We're always talking about things like working the count, getting good balls to hit, really look for balls that you can jump on, first pitch -- definitely fastballs middle-in, things like that. I think that's part of it."

The Phillies saw 3.79 pitches per plate appearance in 2012, down from 3.81 in '11, 3.85 in '10, 3.87 in '09 and 3.85 in '08. But the approach isn't so much about seeing more pitches so much as seeking out the right pitch. Third baseman Michael Young said he's noticed an emphasis on exactly that in his first year here.

"I think we've done a great job of making sure we really stay aggressive on balls in the zone," Young said. "With the talent that we have, if we make sure that we swing at our pitch, we're going to score runs. It's going to happen. We've done a really good job with situational hitting. That's something that they've preached early on in the spring as well. So those two things have been good, particularly because it's so early in the spring when guys are still trying to execute game plans and at the same time try to get their timing down. I think we've done a good job of that so far. It's good to see."

Manuel hopes that the message will finally take hold with his players, if only because they're hearing a unified message from so many people. It's not just Manuel and it's not just hitting coach Steve Henderson. They're hearing it from assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner and third-base coach Ryne Sandberg as well.

If the message sticks with Philadelphia's hitters, Manuel has reason to believe the Phillies' offensive numbers will be up across the board.

"There's power in numbers," Young said. "It's something where, if we talk about it as a team and continue to embed it in our approach, then we're going to be in great shape."