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Aaron Rowand: A Hard-Nosed Ballplayer

In coming to Philadelphia, everyone knew Aaron Rowand – a self-proclaimed clown – would be a classic Philly guy.  I’ve seen him lay out for several balls in the outfield already this season – some he caught, some he didn’t, but he always hustled and it doesn’t take a juxtaposition with Bobby Abreu for one to realize just how balls-out this guy plays.  Last night, in the very first inning Gavin Floyd walked the bases loaded and it looked as if the Phils were in for another drubbing as Xavier Nady hit a 3-2 pitch deep to centerfield.  Rowand with his unwavering determination to save the inning (and as Harry said, the game) made an over-the-sholder catch while running full speed into the outfield wall.  To demonstrate the true grit of the guy, as soon as he collapsed to the ground after pummeling face first into the chain-link fence, he immediately held up his glove to show he made the catch.  Wheels compared the collision to a bug splattering on a windshield.  The importance of the catch cannot be understated.  Almost the entire team ran out to see how he was, including Charlie Manuel and the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation as he walked off the field under his own power.  I would not hesitate to say that catch last night is the stuff legends are made of – if you missed it, you can catch it here.

Unfortunately for Aaron, it’s possible the injury could have been prevented.  He mentioned to the Phillies that the wall needed extra padding (interestingly enough Abreu, Lofton, Michaels never said a word) and in fact, some was due to be installed next week.  I’ve always wondered why a chain-link fence is in the outfield anyway.  If the club was looking for a transparent wall why not use hockey glass like they used to have in the Metrodome?  Anyway, Aaron ended up with a broken nose and lacerations on his face.  He spent the night at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and is scheduled to have surgery on Friday to repair his nose.  He is likely to be placed on the 15-day DL, and since Geoff Geary was optioned to Scranton to make room for Cole Hamels, the Phils will have a roster spot open.  If Gillick and co. decide to call up a centerfielder, Chris Roberson would make the most sense.

In the rest of last night’s game saw Gavin Floyd continued to struggle and pitch himself into jams – though he now boasts a 4-2 record.  He used his curveball effectively when he was ahead in the count, but that wasn’t too often.  His numbers didn’t look bad in the rain shorted game, (0 runs, 2 hits, 4BB, 2 Ks) but he threw just 50 strikes over 92 pitches.  Luckily the guys behind him came to his rescue.  Bell and JRoll made some tough plays (as they tend to do), and Rowand’s replacement, Shane Victornio, came on strong and fast as he hustled to a double and triple in his first two ABs.  Chase Utley put the Phils on top with a homer in the first and David Bell added some insurance by driving in Victorino.  But precisely on cue – when the game became official after the final out of the top of the 5th – the heavens opened and ended the game.  It just goes to show that Mother Nature must be a Phillies fans. 

The Phillies took the series and narrowed the Mets lead in the East to three games.  Hopefully the Mets are a bit closer to reality now and recognize that this will be a legitimate race to October.  Peter Gammons blogged to this extent earlier in the week and is glad the NY-Philly rivalry has been restored.  Judging by the intensity of Tuesday’s game, there is definitely some electricity brewing between the two clubs.  Although fans did not get the opportunity to heckle Billy Wagner on the mound this time, the teams will square off again on the 23rd at Shea and the Mets will be back at CBP on June 13th. 

As for tonight’s game, it’s all about Cole Hamels’ major league debut.  He’ll be facing a Reds lineup – one with Ken Griffey Jr. back in it – that are tops in the league in OBP and walks and second in homeruns and slugging.  Fortunately, they still strikeout a lot, but not as much as the last few seasons.  Although, it’s probably a good thing that Hamel’s first start will be on the road, this will be a tough test as the Reds are a league best 12-5 at Great American.  My only hope is that he doesn’t get rocked and have his confidence shatteredlike Gavin Floyd last year.  While I do think it is a risky move bringing Hamels up so soon considering his injuries and his less than 200 innings pitched in his career, the potential payoff of having a young phenom in the rotation unknown by most teams would have a huge impact on the Phillies playoff run.  So all I can say is best of luck tonight, Cole, don’t blow it! 

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