Allen making mark in Minor Leagues
White Sox prospect homered twice off Price in first Birmingham game
PHOENIX -- Let's talk about impressive opening performances.
The Watchmen movie earning $56 million in its first week of release has nothing on Brandon Allen's debut for Double-A Birmingham last year.
And the result? Allen launched two home runs. And the starter for Montgomery on that night? None other than David Price, who people might remember from his postseason heroics with Tampa Bay a few months later.
"I was hitting down in the order, so I didn't even have time to think about facing him until I came up to bat," said Allen with a laugh of taking Price deep twice. "I had heard about him. Everyone did."
It might not be very long before Brandon Allen becomes a household name, or at least gets a Major League chance. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound first baseman has drawn some attention of the positive variety during this current White Sox Spring Training in Glendale.
In fact, during a recent Ozzie Guillen interview session, the White Sox manager brought up Allen's name without being asked. Guillen had talked to general manager Ken Williams about getting a serious look at Allen because he liked what had seen on display to date.
Loosely translated, Guillen's comments don't mean Allen has any sort of chance to break camp with the team -- not with Paul Konerko and Jim Thome in front of him. But if something of the unplanned-injury variety happened during the season at first base or even designated hitter, the 23-year-old has put himself in the mix.
"I'm really not rushing anything," Allen said. "This is a good opportunity to watch and get up close and personal with these guys and understand their approach and how they work. I'm a learner. I'm not taking for granted what I'm doing here."
"When I saw Brandon years ago when he first came to our organization, he was real raw," said White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker. "Our Minor League system has done a really good job with him. He's a good kid with a good attitude and he's progressed a long way. He really has."
Allen was a fifth-round pick by the White Sox in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft but didn't really take off until the 2007 season with Class A Kannapolis. He hit a career-best .283 that season, with 18 home runs, 39 doubles and 93 RBIs.
Between stops last year with the Warthogs and Barons, Allen batted .278 with 32 doubles, 29 home runs and 75 RBIs over 130 games. Allen claims one of his biggest adjustments was learning to go the other way with pitches such as a changeup on the outside corner, and in turn, learning "the right way to pull the ball."
There's also the little matter of Allen finding an apparent speed burst as he moves through the system, which Walker attributes to the young man getting into better physical condition. Allen finished 17-for-21 in stolen base attempts and knocked out six triples in 2008.
"You don't want to be known as a base-clogger out there," said Allen of his newfound speed. "You want to be an athlete, that's what I try to do.
"Every year, I run the bleachers and work on my explosion. Speed can get you hits, even for a big guy like me. I take pride in my average speed that I possess."
A great deal of pride can be derived by Allen from his current Spring Training showing. For example, Allen finished 4-for-4 with two RBIs in last Friday's exhibition over Team Australia's entry in the World Baseball Classic.
Of course, it doesn't really compare to hitting two home runs in his first Double-A game off of Price. Then again, it's a constant learning process for Allen, with more memorable moments on the horizon.
"He's definitely done really well," Walker said. "He's come a long way, and still has room for improvement. He's got some more upside."
"My goal was to come out here swinging," Allen said. "They hear about you, but you want to show them what you can do. It's good to be up here and learn some things and pick up some things by being around these older guys who have done so much."
As for Price, Allen ran into him in the ballpark hallway the next day following the two home run effort last July.
"He said, 'I thought you were a big leaguer rehabbing or something,'" said a smiling Allen, who also hit for the cycle in 2008, drove in seven runs in one game and averaged one home run per every 10.9 at-bats with Birmingham. "It really was crazy. But it was the same game, just a little harder, so you want to go up swinging, with confidence. That's all I want to do here, too."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.