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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With the regular goal of making more contact, Pat Burrell got contacts.
The left fielder was fitted for corrective lenses on Thursday, and spent a good part of Friday morning trying to insert them. Jayson Werth, who's been wearing contact lenses since his teens, offered advice. Jason Hill helped.
While this isn't something Burrell asked for or feels he needs, he'll give it a try.
"I could understand if I went to them and said, 'I'm not seeing anything,'" Burrell said. "I never complained. This guy gave me a screening and said, 'You need to come in.' I said I'll try them. They don't help."
Burrell contends that his vision is fine, and he may be right. Still, red flags were raised during his annual eye exam because he didn't pass as handily as usual. He went to a local eye doctor earlier this week. There were whispers about Burrell's eyesight last season when he continued to take called third strikes.
On Day 1, Burrell wore them during batting practice and said "the ball looked the same." Since he's only supposed to wear them for a few hours each day, he didn't wear them for the game against the Red Sox. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but is hitting .286 this spring.
Burrell has some irritation and discomfort when he looks down -- common with new contact lenses -- but he'll see what happens.
"I never had a problem with my eyes," Burrell said.
The good news is that Burrell's sore back, which prevented him from taking trips to Sarasota and Bradenton on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, felt good enough to go to Winter Haven on Thursday, and he played again on Friday. His right foot, a regular issue over the past two seasons, even after surgery in the winter of 2005, also feels good.
As for his eyes, hitting coach Milt Thompson said the contacts can't hurt.
"Why not?" he said. "I think he's fine, but I think sometimes he takes balls that are very close with two strikes that you have to foul off. That's just my opinion. He's got them now, so we'll see [if they help]."
Mr. Smith's struggles:
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Spring Training info:
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Regardless of whatever equity he may have built with a fine September, Matt Smith can't be happy with his past two outings.
So after struggling for the second straight outing, and giving up three hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning, and seeing all six score, Smith didn't brush it off as a getting-your-work-in kind of outing.
"It doesn't matter if it's exhibition, tiddlywinks, stick-ball or whatever," Smith said. "That's embarrassing. I'm not proud of it. You can probably throw every negative would out there. This is not the way I wanted spring to go."
Smith's ERA is 30.86. The first batter he faced, David Ortiz, hit a monster home run well out of Bright House Networks Field.
"The pitch to Ortiz was a hanging, down-the-middle, home-run slider, basically," Smith said.
Despite the fact that Ortiz is one of the game's premier hitters, Smith needs to get left-handers out to prove his worth. He struggled against Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but pitched well against the Red Sox on March 3.
After posting a 2.08 ERA in 14 games with the Phillies, Smith appeared to be a lock to make the team as the situational lefty.
"I know here are plenty more games this spring, but if I keep throwing like this, I don't think good things are going to happen. Last season's over with. That was great and it was a special moment. I'm glad I got my feet wet, but this is a new year."
Rowand rumors ... again:
A report in Friday's Chicago-Sun Times, citing unidentified sources,
indicated that Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and White Sox GM Ken Williams have again discussed a trade that
would send Aaron Rowand to Chicago, this time for relief help. One of the names mentioned is lefty Boone Logan.
Another speculated name is lefty reliever Matt Thornton, who Gillick knows from Seattle. The 29-year-old was a first-round pick by the Mariners in 1998 (before Gillick arrived), but came up through the ranks.
Gillick laughed when the report was mentioned. Asked is he envisions his 25-man roster coming from players currently in camp, Williams said:
"I'd like to say yes, but you never know what will be presented to you and I have to keep an open mind," Williams told MLB.com. "Even if I did say yes, you wouldn't believe me."
Rowand got a call from a Chicago radio station regarding the latest rumor. Since the season ended, he's already been dealt to the White Sox at the Winter Meetings for Freddy Garcia, and this spring he's been shipped to San Diego for Scott Linebrink and Toronto with Jon Lieber for Alex Rios. The Padres and Blue Jays have been squashed a source said, though Gillick didn't help matters by being spotted in
Dunedin on a few occasions.
Like one of the many times he gets hit by a pitch, Rowand shakes it off.
"This is my 10th year [in professional baseball] and I've been traded once," Rowand said. "There are rumors all the time. [I] average at least two or three an offseason. It's flattering both ways. The fact that they want me or that Philly wants to keep me. I plan on being here."
Rowand's name keeps coming up because of Shane Victorino's ability to play center field, and Philadelphia's need for a relief. They hope to deal Lieber to fill that need, but also must consider all possibilities.
Rowand was nearly included in the deal for Garcia, but the White Sox accepted Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez, one of three players they sent to Philadelphia for Jim Thome in 2005.
Of greater importance to Rowand is improving on his .111 Spring Training average. He started slow last spring, and according to him, every year.
"I should just accept that I [stink] in Spring Training," Rowand said, laughing.
Why no regulars?
The starting lineup for the 9,111 paying customers at Bright House Networks Field didn't include National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins or Rowand.
That quartet will head to St. Petersburg on Saturday, and went to Winter Haven on Thursday, so Manuel gave them the day off on Friday -- at home.
"They've been playing every day, and I took them to Winter Haven because I wanted to beat the Indians," said Manuel, joking about the organization that let him go.
Greg Dobbs, who's challenging for a spot as a lefty off the bench, went 1-for-2 with a double, and is hitting .500 (10-for-20) this spring. He has two Grapefruit League homers, to go with one in a "B" game against Toronto and an exhibition game against Florida State University. ... Wes Helms clubbed his second homer of the spring in the first inning.
The Phillies split up for a pair of road trips on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Garcia and regulars Burrell, Rollins, Howard, Utley and Rowand are scheduled to head to Tampa to face the Devil Rays, while Lieber heads to Kissimee to face the Astros.