3 Philadelphia Phillies

The off-season left some holes, but a big one got filled in center
April 02, 2006

The day beforeThanksgiving, Aaron Rowand was at home in Las Vegas, headed out for a morninground of golf, when his cellphone rang. White Sox general manager Ken Williamswas calling to tell Rowand he'd been traded to the Phillies with two minorleaguers for Jim Thome. Rowand, who had been the starting centerfielder for the2005 World Series champs, was blindsided by the news. "I didn't golf realwell that day," he says.

It wasn't justthat Rowand was practically still cleaning championship confetti out of hishair. The 28-year-old had spent his entire career in the Chicago organization,having been drafted by the White Sox in 1998. "I was real comfortablethere," Rowand says. "I knew the city, knew the fans, knew all thepeople in the front office. I had great relationships with my teammates. I hadhoped to spend the rest of my career there. In this day and age I guessthinking like that is pretty unrealistic."

Though the dealshocked Rowand, it came as a pleasant surprise for new Phillies general managerPat Gillick. Thome missed the second half of the 2005 season with an elbowinjury, and Gillick thought the 35-year-old slugger might have to prove he wasphysically sound in spring training before he could be traded. Not only did thedeal bring the Phillies a new starting centerfielder, but it also made room atfirst base for Ryan Howard, who replaced Thome in the lineup last summer andwent on to be named National League Rookie of the Year.

Rowand's statsactually slipped last year from his breakout season of 2004, when he batted.310 with 24 home runs and 17 stolen bases, but numbers aren't the entire storywith him. Says Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, "He wants to play the gameright, and he's always talking about winning. In our clubhouse we're going toneed that. I think he goes with [second baseman] Chase Utley in that they areblue-collar players, hard-nosed guys who just live to play baseball."

Rowand, 28, sayshe has acclimated to his new team, which has plenty of players who are aboutthe same age and at a similar point in their careers. The fans should alsoembrace Rowand, who'll no doubt remind the hoagie-eaters of former Philliesfavorite Lenny Dykstra--another spark-plug centerfielder who came toPhiladelphia after winning a World Series elsewhere. Like Dykstra, Rowand has atendency to run into walls. "The bottom line is, I'm trying to catch theball," Rowand says. "Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I'mgoing to do."

Rowand is aprominent acquisition in an otherwise middling off-season for Philadelphia.Free-agent pickup Tom Gordon, the former Yankees setup man, is a capablecloser, but he can't fill the shoes of Billy Wagner, who signed with the Metsafter a season in which he had 38 saves and the second-lowest ERA in the majors(1.51). The Phillies also must juggle the rotation, with righthander VicentePadilla gone in a trade and lefty Randy Wolf recovering from elbow surgery.Free-agent righthander Ryan Franklin (12-31 in 2004 and '05 combined with theMariners) and converted reliever Ryan Madson (15-8 over the last two seasons)will likely fill those spots.

Manuel believesthat if he can get consistent performances from his pitchers, his club cancompete with the Mets and the Braves for the division title. "Defensively,our infield was as good as any in the National League [in '05]," he says."Offensively, we are definitely going to score runs."

Gillick alsolikes the mood in the clubhouse. "This group will play together quitewell," he says. "If you compare them part by part with other teams inour division, maybe we don't stack up, but I think as a unit they're going tobe pretty good."

One thingGillick especially likes about Rowand is that the new centerfielder bringsWorld Series experience to a team that hasn't been to the postseason since1993--the year Dykstra was a big part of a worst-to-first turnaround for thePhillies. Rowand downplays that notion. "We had a pretty inexperiencedgroup [with the White Sox] last year," he says. If his first year in Phillyturns out like his last in Chicago, that would be a shocker too. --B.S.

IN FACT
Rightfielder Bobby Abreu has had seven straight years with 100-plus walks. Ifhe reaches triple digits in bases on balls in '06, he'll tie Frank Thomas andMax Bishop for the big league record.

CONSIDER THIS
a modest proposal

Ryan Madson'stwo-year apprenticeship in the bullpen appears over, as the 25-year-old isslated to open the season in the rotation. But that decision may not be theright one. While the Phillies have a number of candidates for the fifth starter(Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels, Robinson Tejeda), Madson (right), who had 79strikeouts in 87 innings last year, is by far the best righthanded setupoption. Given the importance of the innings he would throw in that role and thedrop-off to journeymen Ricardo Rodriguez and Julio Santana, Philadelphia needsMadson in the pen more than in the rotation.

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2005 statistics

2005 RECORD
88-74
second in NL East

MANAGER
Charlie Manuel
second season with Philadelphia

BATTINGORDER

SS Rollins

CF Rowand

RF Abreu

2B Utley

LF Burrell

1B Howard

C Lieberthal

3B Bell


AARON ROWAND [New acquisition]
B-T R
PVR 97
BA .270
HR 13
RBI 69
SB 16

PAT BURRELL
B-T R
PVR 54
BA .281
HR 32
RBI 117
SB 0

BOBBY ABREU
B-T L-R
PVR 9
BA .286
HR 24
RBI 102
SB 31

JIMMY ROLLINS
B-T S-R
PVR 36
BA .290
HR 12
RBI 54
SB 41

CHASE UTLEY
B-T L-R
PVR 16
BA .291
HR 28
RBI 105
SB 16

DAVID BELL
B-T R
PVR 272
BA .248
HR 10
RBI 61
SB 0

RYAN HOWARD
B-T L
PVR 12
BA .288
HR 22
RBI 63
SB 0

MIKELIEBERTHAL
B-T R
PVR 197
BA .263
HR 12
RBI 47
SB 0

BENCH
ABRAHAM NUÑEZ [New acquisition]
B-T S-R
PVR 290
BA .285
HR 5
RBI 44
SB 0

SHANEVICTORINO*
B-T S-R
PVR 255
BA .310
HR 18
RBI 70
SB 17

[This articlecontains tables. Please see hard copy or pdf.]

ROTATION

PITCHER   PVR W L SO WHIP ERA
RH Jon Lieber 45 17 13 149 1.21 4.20
RH Brett Myers 51 13 8 208 1.21 3.72
RH Cory Lidle 132 13 11 121 1.35 4.53
RH Ryan Franklin [New Acquisition] 145 8 15 93 1.44 5.10
RH Ryan Madson 108 6 5 79 1.25 4.14


BULLPEN

PITCHER   PVR W L S WHIP ERA
RH Tom Gordon [New acquisition] 59 5 4 2 1.09 2.57
LH Arthur Rhodes [New acquisition] 199 3 1 0 1.04 2.08
RH Julio Santana [New acquisition] 255 3 5 1 1.26 4.50


New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 59)

ON DECK
coming to a ballpark near you this summer...

If the rotationneeds a boost this year, Philly will likely turn to Cole Hamels (left), a22-year-old southpaw with an 11-3 record and 1.54 ERA in three minor leagueseasons plagued by injuries (in 2004 elbow tendinitis, last year a chronic backproblem and a broken left hand). Healthy at last, he looked strong in minorleague games this spring, and with continuing solid performances, he'll be aprime candidate for a call-up.

PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMON MOOD SWING Philly brought in Rowand not just for his bat, but also for his Series experience and Dykstra-like intensity. PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (MADSON) PHOTOMLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (HAMELS) ILLUSTRATION

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)