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Brown big part of A's early success

Brown big part of A's early success

ANAHEIM -- Oakland's signing of free-agent outfielder Emil Brown to a one-year deal in January didn't exactly move the needle on a national level.

Brown fit the classic journeyman profile, having played in parts of eight Major League seasons with three different teams over 14 years as a professional, and he didn't appear in any Major League games for three consecutive seasons (2002-2004).

When he finally established himself with three fairly productive years in the bigs, averaging more than 76 RBIs from 2005-2007, it went largely unnoticed because he was toiling for the victory-challenged Kansas City Royals.

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The profile Brown did not fit was the one the A's seemed to create for themselves when they traded Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay and Marco Scutaro for a bushel of prospects over the winter.

General manager Billy Beane made no bones about his new direction: The A's were rebuilding with youth. So what on earth were they doing signing a 33-year-old who had just been non-tendered by another team in rebuilding mode?

What they were doing, it now appears, is something on which Beane's reputation as a master budget-roster architect was built. For a reported $1.4 million, the A's have the second-leading RBI man in the American League.

Brown, whose two-run single Sunday helped the A's pull off a comeback victory in Seattle, entered the opener of a four-game series at Angel Stadium on Monday with 22 RBIs in 24 games.

"I knew he was a good RBI guy in Kansas City, but he's even better than advertised," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He has a real solid approach up there, and he seems to take it up a notch with runners in scoring position. He's had a lot of big hits for us."

A quiet but friendly man whose first response to most interview requests is a glance at the closest clock, Brown said his approach is very simple.

"I try to stay up the middle for the most part," he explained. "From there, it's just about reacting to what the pitcher does. No matter what your approach is, the pitcher is going to dictate what you do."

Brown went 5-for-12 in the Seattle series to get his batting average up to .295, with an on-base percentage of .319. Heading into the Angels series, his batting average with runners in scoring position was .476, third-best in the AL.

"He's obviously been a big part of our success as a team so far," Geren said.

Success as a team isn't something with which Brown is very familiar. Before playing for the Royals, he was with the Pirates (1997-2001) and, briefly in 2001, the Padres. To say he's digging it is an understatement on the level of saying, "That Whitney gal could sing a little in her day, huh?"

Said Brown: "I've never been in this position before in the Major Leagues. It's good motivation. You always want to play hard, but when you're in a situation like this, it's different.

"Everybody has days when they're dragging a little bit. I'm dragging a little today. But when you're in a competitive situation like this one, now that I'm here at the park, getting ready to play against another good team, I can already feel the juices coming up a little bit."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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