SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The existing trade speculation involving Aaron Rowand gained new life Sunday as he occupied a new position.Rowand started in left field for the Giants as they defeated the Texas Rangers in their second World Series rematch of the spring, 11-8. It marked the first time that Rowand manned a spot other than center field since he played right field for the Chicago White Sox on June 22, 2004, against Cleveland. Rowand last played left on Sept. 19, 2003, against Kansas City. Such history is trivial to the Giants. Industry insiders believe that they're hoping to parlay Rowand's skills into a deal by Opening Day that would ease their roster crunch. Manager Bruce Bochy said that Rowand's switch to left "opens up our options a little bit more with our corner situation," since the Giants haven't settled on a regular left fielder. "Today's a good day to take a look at it. For him, for us."
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Bochy downplayed the move's significance.
"It's not a major adjustment," he said.Rowand, 33, diplomatically but firmly rebuffed all trade-related inquiries from reporters. Asked if he wants to remain a Giant, he referred to the front office while replying, "All that stuff is completely out of my control. There are other people who can answer that question better than me." Rowand echoed Bochy's view of the move.
"I think it's about getting at-bats, any way you can. No need to read any more into it than what it is," he said. In fact, 12 Giants have amassed more Cactus League at-bats than Rowand's 22."My swing feels good," said Rowand, who lifted his batting average to .227 while singling and walking in three plate appearances. "I just need to feel relaxed in the box." Defensively, Rowand caught the lone fly ball hit toward him as he retreated to the warning track for David Murphy's second-inning drive. The Giants are leaning toward keeping 12 pitchers and two catchers on their season-opening 25-man roster. Infielders Mark DeRosa, Miguel Tejada, Mike Fontenot, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval are locks to make the team, along with outfielders Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Andres Torres. That scenario leaves Rowand, first baseman Travis Ishikawa and right fielder Nate Schierholtz competing for two spots, assuming prospect Brandon Belt begins the season with Triple-A Fresno. Like Rowand, Ishikawa and Schierholtz have played left field this spring. Unlike Rowand, they're not saddled with a cumbersome contract. Rowand's owed $12 million in each of the next two seasons, concluding the five-year, $60 million deal he signed before the 2008 season. But the Giants likely would be willing to assume most or all of their financial obligation to Rowand, who hit a career-low .230 with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs last year while being supplanted by Torres in center. Rowand, a career .276 hitter, adds depth to San Francisco's outfield contingent. He has value as a potential backup for Torres, whose injury history prompts some concern. But if Rowand were to depart, the Giants still would have Ross, their projected everyday right fielder, available to play center. Ross has occupied that spot 358 times in 636 career games.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.