WHEN AARON ROWAND reached agreement on a 5-year, $60 million deal with the San Francisco Giants last week, the Phillies knew Shane Victorino would be the guy called upon to replace the All-Star Gold Glover in centerfield.
Still, they were searching for someone to duplicate the hard-nosed, leave-it-on-the-field mentality displayed by fan favorite Rowand.
Yesterday, the Phillies found their guy, signing free-agent outfielder Geoff Jenkins for 2 years, $13 million.
If Jenkins makes at least 925 plate appearances in the next two seasons, or 525 plate appearances in 2009, it would trigger a $7.5 million vesting option for 2010, bringing the deal to more than $20 million. If the agreement fails to vest, he and the Phillies have a mutual option for the third year. The Phillies also agreed to a six-team, limited no-trade provision.
Jenkins is more than ready to come right in and contribute where needed, and he knows Phillies' fans will expect the same diehard play from him that they got from Rowand.
"I definitely will bring some of the same things Rowand did to Philadelphia," said Jenkins, who spent his first 10 seasons in Milwaukee. "I don't want to run into any walls or break any noses . . . but I'm an aggressive outfielder and take it just as seriously as he did."
The Phillies also addressed their pitching needs by signing righthander Chad Durbin, 30, to a 1-year deal. Durbin, who went 8-7 with a 4.72 ERA last year with the Detroit Tigers, is expected to compete for the fifth starting spot.
"He's a very versatile pitcher," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said. "He can start, pitch in the middle, and give you several options. He'll be in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation."
Jenkins, a solid defensive player and strong lefthanded bat, will platoon in rightfield with Jayson Werth, likely starting against righthanders. The 33-year-old former All-Star, who was testing the free-agent market for the first time after having his $9 million option for 2008 declined by the Brewers, also had interest from the San Diego Padres. Although he has no personal ties to the city, the comfort of playing in a hitter's park and the opportunity to win now swayed his decision to sign with Philadelphia.
"I'm an Eagles fan, so I'm sure that will help, too," Jenkins said.
Durbin said it was a blessing in disguise to be non-tendered after the Tigers landed Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Caberra in a trade with the Florida Marlins. Durbin, who is no relation to Phillies pitcher J.D. Durbin and knows him only through his nickname "The Real Deal," said he had several conversations with the Tigers' front office during the offseason and knew there wouldn't be a slot for him next season.
Durbin, who went 6-7 with a 4.88 ERA in 19 starts last year, said his goal is to win a starting spot.
"It'll play its way out," said Durbin, who also pitched in Kansas City, Cleveland and Arizona in his 8-year career. "I really feel like I can start and I can do well as a starter. That's why I signed here. If I'm out in the 'pen, that means someone is healthy, which is always a good sign across the board. But I definitely prefer starting."
Health is the biggest concern right now for the Phillies, especially for Adam Eaton. Gillick said he was optimistic that Eaton, who has been rehabbing his tender right shoulder in Seattle 3 days a week, would be healthy by spring training. Gillick added that the battle for the fifth starter would be a "competitive situation." He said the contenders could include Durbin, Eaton and Travis Blackley, whom the Phillies selected in the Rule 5 draft from the San Francisco Giants this month.
The Phillies view Eaton, who has never pitched out of the bullpen, as a starter. However, Gillick said they wouldn't hesitate to make a change if they see fit.
While the Phillies did take a look at free-agent righthander Kris Benson on Monday, Gillick said the Phillies were more "unlikely than likely" to add another pitcher before the start of spring training. He said Benson, who missed last season after shoulder surgery, is still at least a couple of months away from showing what he can contribute to a team.
But Gillick knows there's always room for improvement, especially on a team that began last season with six starting pitchers on the roster and had only Jamie Moyer among them pitch the entire season.
"You never have enough," Gillick said of pitching. "The mortality rate of these pitchers is so high right now that you have to have a lot of people to pick and choose from, because these guys don't stay healthy all the time."
Since they were swept by the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series in October, the Phillies made pitching the No. 1 priority this offseason and began to address it by trading Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and minor league third baseman Mike Costanzo to the Houston Astros for closer Brad Lidge and utility infielder Eric Bruntlett.
"I think we're more comfortable now than we were," Gillick said. "I think Durbin is going to help us out tremendously now."
Third base remains an issue in the minds of many Phillies fans. Gillick said Gregg Dobbs likely will concentrate on third base now, behind Wes Helms. Bruntlett can play third, shortstop and second.
Gillick said it's too early to compare this current roster with last year's, which led the team into the postseason for the first time in 14 years.
"We'll just have to wait and see," Gillick said. "I like our starting [pitching], with the addition of Lidge that put [Brett] Myers back in the rotation, better than last year. But we'll just have to see. There's still a lot of slack to be made up."
Lohse a no-go
Pat Gillick said yesterday that the Phillies were out of the running for free agent Kyle Lohse. However, it might not be the last they see of the 29-year-old, who was 3-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 13 appearances with the Phillies after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline last season.
According to the New York Post, the Mets are believed to have offered Lohse, who wants $10 million annually, a 4-year contract. It was unknown whether they offered him what he was seeking.
Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Post the Phillies refused to go beyond 3 years for the righthander, who made $4.2 million last year.
"We talked to [agent Scott] Boras a few times, and, from all indications, it looked like it would take 4 years," he said. "We let him know that we wouldn't go higher than 3. He indicated he could get 4, and we bowed out gracefully." *