Phils players work out in Clearwater

Phils players get in early workouts at Clearwater

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Networks experienced regular traffic Tuesday, despite the fact that no one was required to be there.

Though pitchers and catchers aren't scheduled for their first workout until Thursday and position players have until Feb. 20, that couldn't keep Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand and others away.

The newlywed Utley spent the morning and part of the afternoon swatting baseballs in the cage. Jamie Moyer ran laps around a practice field, keeping his 44-year-old body in pristine condition. Rowand worked out in the morning and spent a good deal of the afternoon holding court at his end locker.

"It was a very short offseason for me," Utley said. "I'm glad I'm here now."

"We have a long road ahead of us, starting now," Rowand said.

Rowand literally had a long road ahead of him, as he loaded up his gigantic red Ford F-250 in Philadelphia and drove 1,100 miles to Clearwater. With a 28-gallon tank, the vehicle still needed frequent fill-ups.

Rowand has been in Clearwater for about a week, after first watching his beloved Bears lose to the Colts in the Super Bowl. He went to the game with former Cal-State Fullerton teammate and current Phillies Minor Leaguer Greg Jacobs, who was rooting for the Colts.

"The whole festivities part of it was great," he said. "We had a blast being there. I just wish the outcome would have been different. It was extremely painful going through all those years of no playoffs or losing in the first round of the playoffs. For them to get back there and not play as well as they're capable of playing was the most upsetting part."

Rowand could've been speaking about the Phillies, who have fallen short of the playoffs in two straight years and are hoping to get over the hump this season. Rowand loves the acquisition of Freddy Garcia, who helped the White Sox win a World Series in 2005.

Having moved into his new home in a Philadelphia suburb this offseason, Rowand has heard a lot of optimistic talk regarding the 2007 Phillies, whether it's been via the newspapers, at a local poker game or interacting with the community.

Rowand had an amusing experience. While taking his daughter trick-or-treating with some of his neighbors, he came across a young boy dressed as him, complete with a jersey, black eye and splint on his left ankle.

Healthy now and not having been traded, Rowand said he's ready to roll.

Lieber concerned: Jon Lieber's expected arrival on Wednesday and subsequent stay with the Phillies is one of the hot topics of the spring.

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Will he be traded for bullpen help? Will an injury or trade change the equation?

"He's heard all the rumors and he was concerned about that," said manager Charlie Manuel, who saw Lieber a few weeks ago. "I felt like we had a good talk and he understands things. He wants to pitch for us and be part of our team. I want him ready when the season starts. I hope he's coming into Spring Training with the idea that he's going to pitch for us."

Manuel said he told Lieber that he saw him as a starter, meaning that the veteran will likely not see any time in the bullpen. Manuel has also been around long enough to know that things have a way of working out.

"We know we got six starters, and our pitchers know we've got six starters," Manuel said. "But you never know when you might have four or three. Things have a way of working out. You have to wait and see what happens."

Rain not a problem: Rain in the afternoon didn't stop Scott Mathieson from finishing his run.

The young right-hander, who's in for a season of recovery from September Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, never minded the precipitation on his face. He also reported that his recovery is going well.

"I'm glad I'm down here and feeling good again," said Mathieson, whose been throwing for the past two weeks. "It feels like I never stopped throwing."

No more arbitration cases: Geoff Geary agreed to a one-year, $837,500 contract with the Phillies on Tuesday. He was Philadelphia's final pending arbitration case.

Geary's salary is the midpoint between the $925,000 he requested and the $750,000 offered by the Phillies.

Philling In: Manuel said he doesn't plan to use closer Tom Gordon for more than an inning at a time, and will try not to pitch him more than three straight days. He also will try and limit the amount of times Gordon pitches in non-save situations. He was used a few times when the Phillies had a four-run lead in 2006. ... Moyer is back in Florida for Spring Training for the first time since 1996, when he was with the Red Sox. He took advantage by arriving a few days early and taking his family to Disney World. ... Pat Burrell may do less running this spring, in an effort to help his troublesome right foot. ... National League MVP Ryan Howard is expected to arrive in camp on Wednesday. Howard is featured this month by "Real Sports," the Emmy-winning HBO sports program. He was interviewed by Bryant Gumbel, and the segment focused on his rise to being a top slugger in baseball's post-steroids era. The show will re-air during the month.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.