Bowa and Rolen square off in loud, heated exchange The Phillies' manager has denied singling out the third baseman for strong criticism.

Posted: June 14, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The words were strong. The attack was personal.

"If the No. 4 guy even makes contact in either Boston loss, we sweep the series," Phillies manager Larry Bowa was quoted as saying in a published report yesterday.

Bowa said he never made that controversial accusation concerning Scott Rolen's play in last weekend's visit to Fenway Park.

Welcome to the Phillies' version of life in first place.

Rolen has been the primary four-hole hitter for the Phillies this season, and, by his admission, needs to be more productive. Bowa's reported quotes prompted a closed-door meeting between the manager and the Gold Glove third baseman before last night's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

At times, the exchange was loud and heated. If any air was cleared, Rolen refused to acknowledge it.

Asked to describe his relationship with the manager after the meeting, he declined to comment.

For his part, Bowa said he never told Bill Conlin what appeared under the Daily News columnist's name yesterday.

"That's totally false," Bowa said of the quote attributed to him. "I said the middle of the lineup right now is killing us. . . . I'm not that stupid that I would single out one person. I didn't say it.

"Talking about the Boston series, I said all the middle of the lineup had to do was put the ball in play and they didn't, and it's killing us. I asked why everybody rips the pitching. Why not rip the middle of the lineup?"

Conlin stood by his version of the story.

The gist of the column was that Rolen is dragging down the Phillies with his lack of power and production. The headline: "Great Scott? Not. Rolen hasn't shown much reason to keep him."

Rolen can be a free agent after next season, and his talks for a contract extension with the Phillies ended unsuccessfully just before opening day. He has said he will not talk with the team again until after the season.

Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro declined to respond to a reference that Rolen rejected a 10-year, $140 million deal from the Phillies because he wanted a guarantee that the team payroll would be among the highest in baseball.

Rolen was asked whether he had read yesterday's column.

"Indeed," he said. "Let me just put it this way: I was brought up to take the high road, and I think this is a good time to look for that high road.

"We're a first-place team, and I'm not going to disrupt that. This is the first time I've been on a first-place team, and I'm not going to be negative and brew controversy. This means too much to me."

Bowa did not want to stir up trouble, either.

"A lot of guys are struggling," the manager said. "One guy doesn't carry a ball club. One guy doesn't make you or break you. I have all the respect in the world for my third baseman. Last year, he played in pain. He goes out there every day and he doesn't complain."

Rolen went into last night's game hitting .270, with six home runs and 36 RBIs.

"I found out in that article what a bad player I was," Rolen said. "My focus is to come into the clubhouse every day, put my uniform on, and win a baseball game. It's not to improve my status as a cleanup hitter."

Bowa also was quoted as being critical of Bobby Abreu's production.

"Three and four, we've got to be dead last," the manager said. "I can't believe the papers aren't running some kind of comparison chart."

For the sake of comparison, the third and fourth hitters in the lineup (Abreu and Rolen for all except two games) are hitting .266, with 17 home runs, 75 RBIs and 82 runs scored. In the National League, only the Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds had fewer RBIs from their third and fourth hitters before last night, and only the Reds had fewer home runs.

Abreu and Rolen had combined for 39 doubles, tops in the league, and scored 82 runs, which ranked ahead of their colleagues on six teams.

The manager is correct and well within his rights to say that the middle of the order has struggled. Travis Lee, the primary No. 5 hitter, is as guilty as anybody.

"The coaches stink, the manager stinks, we all stink right now," Bowa said. "But then I look at the standings and I see we have 37 wins."

They're a first-place team in the midst of some serious turbulence and turmoil.

Extra bases. Rolen had to leave in the middle of his meeting with Bowa to attend a players-only meeting before last night's game. Reliever Ricky Bottalico said team chemistry was one of the main topics. . . . Phillies chairman Bill Giles and Jackie Autry, a former executive of the California Angels, were named honorary league presidents by Major League Baseball. They will preside over the league boxes at the All-Star Game, playoffs and World Series, announce the all-star teams, and present the league championship trophies. Autry was married to the late Gene Autry, the former Angels owner. She is the only woman to serve on baseball's executive council. . . . The Phillies were short two relievers for last night's game. Jose Santiago remained sidelined with a strained right groin muscle and Eddie Oropesa was unavailable because of a sore back. Bowa said he hoped to have Santiago back in time for this afternoon's series finale with the Devil Rays. . . . Randy Wolf (4-6, 3.93 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Ryan Rupe (3-5, 7.30) at 12:15 p.m. today.

Bob Brookover's e-mail address is bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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