Sleeker Rowand seeks success at top
Slated to hit leadoff, center fielder drops weight
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Having successfully lost weight, Aaron Rowand is turning his attention to shedding disappointment.Rowand admitted without prompting Friday that his Giants tenure has been underwhelming. With three years left on his five-year, $60 million contract, he still has ample opportunity to reverse his fortunes. This season would be an opportune time for Rowand to sustain a renaissance, since he'll occupy a key role as San Francisco's leadoff hitter. Rowand has downplayed moving to the top of the order, not only noting that he has previously occupied this role but also pointing out that in many games he'll bat first exactly once. However, Rowand did not minimize his struggles as a Giant, which statistics plainly reflect. In seven Major League seasons before joining San Francisco, Rowand hit .286 with a .343 on-base percentage and a .462 slugging percentage for the White Sox and Phillies. His corresponding averages as a Giant are .266, .329 and .414. His 28 home runs in 2008-09 exceed by one the total he amassed in 2007 with Philadelphia. "I wasn't satisfied with the two years that I've had here," Rowand said. "I don't think I've done what I felt I could have done, as far as hitting goes. I feel like I can be better in the outfield. I feel like I can improve in all parts of my game." Rowand's aware of the boos he has drawn from fans at AT&T Park, where he has hit .250 as a Giant. "I know the fans have been hard on me at times. And I don't blame them," he said. "But nobody's harder on me than me. I don't play this game to try to be mediocre. I want to try to be the best at what I do."
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Rowand's desire for improvement motivated him to sculpt himself to approximately 215 pounds during the offseason, compared with his season-opening weight of 225 last year. At 32, Rowand realized he needed to make age-related concessions. So he watched his diet, increased his cardiovascular exercise and went on 20- to 25-mile bicycle rides four days a week near his Las Vegas home."I'm not saying I'm old by any means. I'm in the middle of my career," Rowand said. "But when you start getting into your early 30s, you realize your metabolism starts slowing down. I could play center field at 222, 225 like I have in the last few years. But I made the decision of wanting to be better. I wanted to be faster. I wanted to be quicker. You strap a 10-, 15-pound weight on your back and try to do the same stuff, you realize that even though your body adjusts to carrying that weight, you're not going to be quite as fast or quick." Rowand intensified his training weeks before Giants manager Bruce Bochy telephoned him to ask him about batting leadoff. "He knew the answer before he even asked the question," Rowand said. Bochy's reasoning for trying Rowand at leadoff was simple. "If you look at our lineup, he has the most experience," Bochy said. "He's our best option."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.