Rowand ascends to leadoff spot
SAN DIEGO — At the very moment I started to write this, Aaron Rowand doubled off the left-field wall in Wednesday’s fifth inning for his second hit of the game against the San Diego Padres.
Perhaps that’s an indication that manager Bruce Bochy’s lineup innovation will help Rowand and the Giants.
Bochy moved Rowand to the leadoff berth, which he last occupied May 30, 2007 as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I just wanted to shake things up a little bit,” went Bochy’s simple explanation. After all, the Giants ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored entering Wednesday.
Rowand, who has hit fifth, sixth and seventh this season, backed Bochy’s decision.
“He asked me what my thoughts were, and I said, ‘I don’t mind,’ ” Rowand said. “If he wants to put me in the ‘one’ hole, I’m completely fine with it.”
Rowand also joked, “I told him it’s about time he realized he should put speed at the top of the lineup, anyway.”
Though Rowand began the game with a .246 batting average, he probably can’t do much worse than the recent Giants leadoff hittters. Fred Lewis and Emmanuel Burriss hit proficiently lower in the order but slumped when Bochy switched them to leadoff. Lewis and Burriss batted .197 and .148, respectively, at leadoff.
Overall, the Giants’ leadoff numbers have been dreadful. Their No. 1 hitters began this game ranked last in the NL in several offensive categories, including batting average (.208), runs (14) and OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage, .555). The respective league averages in those categories were .265, 25 and .720.
Rowand spent some time at leadoff during his 2001-05 tenure with the Chicago White Sox, starting 59 games in 73 appearances at that spot before Wednesday. His performance as a leadoff man was respectable, demonstrated by his .293 average and .882 OPS. Rowand also collected 15 home runs and 43 RBIs in 259 at-bats while hitting leadoff.
Of course, a leadoff batter might actually hit first only once a game, as Rowand noted. Thus, he said he felt no pressure to change his hitting approach. “It’s not anything different from hitting anywhere else in the lineup,” he said.
– Chris Haft