Rowand: "I think I know what it takes to win"

Rowand: "I think I know what it takes to win"

While Aaron Rowand doesn't claim to have all of the answers, he should have at least some for the Phillies. He's taking over in center field and being looked at to provide stability both on the field and in the clubhouse.

Aaron Rowand doesn't consider himself Napoleon in pinstripes. He isn't the type of guy whose bellows will echo through a clubhouse in times of strife.

The Phillies' new starting center fielder doesn't bring with him the mountainous presence of Jim Thome, who went to the White Sox in the trade that brought Rowand to Philadelphia. However, what Rowand might lack in verbal leadership ability and stature can be offset by his reputation as a scrapper and the experiences that he had while earning a certain piece of jewelry last season in Chicago.

While Rowand and the White Sox were dashing out of the gate in the first two months of 2005, the Phillies stumbled and spent much of that time trying to get themselves above the .500 mark.

The Sox's furious start allowed them to hang on and right the ship when they fell into a funk late in the season.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, there was little room for error down the stretch, and when they fell a game short of catching the Astros in the NL wild-card race, there was plenty of time to reflect on their clunker April and other moments that could have made the difference.

"In our first meeting (before the 2005 season), we talked about how the first game is as important as the last game," manager Charlie Manuel said. "You can't win a division in April, but you can definitely lose it in April."

So, if there's one thing the Phillies might want to take from their new teammate, it is a lesson on how to break from the gate better.

"I think what we went through last year (in Chicago) was huge," said Rowand.

When the Phillies signed Thome to an $85 million contract before the 2003 season, he was sold to the town as not only one of baseball's premier power hitters, but a top-shelf leader, as well. But after losing Thome's bat to injury in 2005 and watching the emergence of second baseman Chase Utley and first baseman Ryan Howard as young, productive players with leadership qualities, Thome became expendable.

That isn't to say that Rowand has tempered expectations and is exempt from scrutiny.

The Phillies had an extremely productive platoon in center field last season, as Kenny Lofton (.335) and Jason Michaels (.304) combined to hit well over .300 and had a combined on-base percentage close to .400. Rowand's 2005 numbers (.270 BA, .329 OBP) were well off those figures. Amid the White Sox' wild successes last season, his numbers took a marked downward turn from 2004, when he hit .310 with 24 homers and 69 RBIs.

Still, he had 13 homers and 16 stolen bases in 2005, and he gives the Phillies a guy who in the late innings has enough pop to hit a game-tying homer and enough speed to go from first to third on a single when needed.

As a right-handed hitter, Rowand will give the Phils' lineup some balance. Three of their top four homerun producers a year ago (Utley, Howard and Bobby Abreu) hit from the left side of the plate.

But Rowand's most crucial role might come in the clubhouse, where he can speak from the experience of being a world champion.

"I think I know what it takes to win," Rowand said, "so I'll try to add whatever I can, when I can."

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