Inside the Phillies: Time for Phillies to bring back Aaron Rowand?

released by the Giants last year, is having a poor spring with Miami. JEFF ROBERSON / Associated Press
released by the Giants last year, is having a poor spring with Miami. JEFF ROBERSON / Associated Press (Aaron Rowand, the onetime Phil)
Posted: March 23, 2012

DUNEDIN, Fla. - Aaron Rowand left Philadelphia more than four years ago after the San Francisco Giants lured him away with a five-year, $60 million contract that is finally going to expire this season.

Speculation that the gritty outfielder could return to the Phillies seems to be almost as old.

Consider it relevant again.

One look at the Phillies' injury-riddled roster makes you realize it is a move at least worth considering.

With Ryan Howard finally bootless but still recovering from Achilles tendon surgery and Chase Utley consulting a knee specialist, the Phillies are obviously a team with a lot of offensive holes. You could also argue that they are a team missing its heart and soul.

Nobody, not even Utley, had a bigger heart than Rowand during his time with the Phillies. And he was also a fearless soul who once ignored an approaching metal fence to make a sensational bases-loaded catch that saved three runs but also bloodied his face and sent him to the disabled list.

Rowand rewrote Ricky Watters' infamous, "For who? For what?" refrain by providing answers - "my teammates" and "to win" - to those questions. It became the battle cry for the team during the remainder of his tenure in Philadelphia.

Other than winning the second World Series of his career and setting up his family financially for generations to come, not much went right for Rowand after he left the Phillies for the Giants.

The Phillies, or any other team for that matter, could have had Rowand last season if they had been willing to pick up a big enough chunk of the $13.6 million the Giants owed him. No team was willing to do so, and before the end of the season the Giants released him. He was hitting .233 at the time after hitting .230 the year before.

All of the Phillies' concerns when they opted against offering Rowand a five-year deal after the best season of his career in 2007 turned out to be justified. He never came close to duplicating his only all-star season with the Phillies, and the team successfully moved on without him by putting Shane Victorino in center field and Jayson Werth in right.

At this point, the Phillies do not need Rowand to be an all-star, and they would not need him at all if it were not for the injuries to Utley and Howard.

But take a closer look at the roster, and you'll see a severe shortage of righthanded bats off the bench. The only guaranteed righthanded hitting option off the bench manager Charlie Manuel has right now is Ty Wigginton. With Howard out, there are going to be quite a few days when the utility infielder is in the lineup.

The other righthanded bench bats in camp are Luis Montanez and Hector Luna, both of whom have limited big-league experience but have performed well in spring training.

Rowand, 34, has had an awful spring training with the Miami Marlins - he is 4 for 33 - and that's why he could soon be available again. He is with the Marlins on a minor-league contract and competing against fellow veteran Austin Kearns for a spot on the Miami bench. It's a competition he is losing, and one scout who has seen him quite often this spring believes he is a shot player.

"He has not been impressive," the scout said. "I think he is done. He does not run well anymore, and his bat speed is limited. Kearns has been much better."

The fact that the Phillies did not sign Rowand when they had a chance during the winter may mean that they agree with that scout's opinion.

On the other hand, if there is one man in this world who believes he can fix the swing of one of his former players, it would be Charlie Manuel.

And if there is one team that should be willing to take a chance on Rowand, it is the Phillies. If the Marlins do indeed release him before the end of spring training, Rowand can be had for next to nothing, which, coincidentally, was the Phillies' run total during their 2-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Manuel's offense collected four hits, and the manager clearly did not enjoy watching his team's futile exercise in hitting, the baseball art he relishes most.

"Every day you got to hit," Manuel said. "I put stock in it every damn day. Spring training, Little League . . . it doesn't matter. We come to the yard to hit. We don't come to get shut out."

Manuel would love to inject some life into his clubhouse, and Rowand was always one of his favorite players, because he played the game right, and he had the kind of voice and charisma to lead his teammates.

The Phillies could use those things right now, but they could use a guy with some life in his bat even more. There are legitimate questions about whether Rowand is still that guy.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

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