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RichH55
02-25-2002, 03:28 PM
BY DOUG PADILLA STAFF REPORTER








TUCSON, Ariz.--Aaron Rowand and Brian Simmons won't let anything like a job of a lifetime get in the way of a good friendship.

The pals off the field are in a competitive battle on it, but they feel it's best not to acknowledge what's at stake.

To the victor goes a backup outfield spot with the White Sox. To the loser ... well, that's a little more complicated.

If Rowand fails to make the Sox, he can be sent to Class AAA Charlotte. Simmons, who has played in the minor leagues for all or part of his six healthy seasons, is out of options, which means if he doesn't make the Sox out of spring training, he must pass through waivers for any team to claim.

"It does you no good to worry about it,'' Simmons said. "That's not our decision to make. The front office, that's their call. I obviously can't control that. All I can do is control my play on the field, and that's what I'm going to do.''

Rowand, who batted .293 in 123 games as a rookie last season, appears to be the leading candidate. He started 34 games last season, including 29 in center field. Simmons returns to the Sox after spending a year in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. He was shipped to the Blue Jays in the David Wells trade and was reacquired off waivers this offseason.

Simmons, 28, missed the 2000 season with a torn left Achilles tendon and hardly was a factor with the Blue Jays last season. He split time between Class AAA Syracuse and Toronto, batting .178 in 60 games with the Blue Jays.

"It's not weird at all,'' Simmons said about the friendly battle. "We've known each other for a while. I don't feel I'm really competing against him. We'll see what happens."

Rowand, 24, refuses to look over his shoulder.

"I don't think you try to look at how he is swinging or how he's doing taking fly balls or anything like that,'' Rowand said. "You are more concerned with your own swings and the things you need to do every day. If you're worried about the next guy, the chances are that your game will suffer.''

Rowand had the fourth-best rookie batting average last season, behind the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki (.350), the Anaheim Angels' Shawn Wooten (.312) and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Toby Hall (.298). He showed his versatility by playing all three outfield spots and was used in every spot in the batting order except leadoff.

But Rowand refuses to think that any of it gives him an advantage this season.

"I don't think you can come to a training camp, especially in my situation, and expect anything as far as making the team,'' Rowand said. "I'm young. I don't think I've earned the right to just be put on this team. I have to go out and do my work and show that I deserve to be here. When you start doing that, you start coasting a little bit and going through the motions and not working as hard as you should.''

There is a possibility that both could make the team, although in all likelihood the final two roster spots will come down to Rowand, Simmons and infielder/outfielder Willie Harris, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in the offseason for center fielder Chris Singleton.

"To tell you the truth, I'm not thinking about any of it,'' Simmons said. "I'm coming back to this organization, and it's a good thing. I'm glad to be back here and whatever happens happens. In the past, I've had some injuries and I'm trying to stay healthy and do the best I can. That's about all I can control.''

RedPinStripes
02-25-2002, 04:03 PM
It would be nice if both made the team.

Meatpants
02-25-2002, 04:09 PM
I would rather have Rowand/Harris/Simmons on the team than Liefer.

RichH55
02-25-2002, 05:08 PM
Originally posted by Meatpants
I would rather have Rowand/Harris/Simmons on the team than Liefer.
I will simply disagree here....how many guys do you need that play the same role?