Aaron Rowand has been a certified pariah since his first season in San Francisco.
His performance at the plate has not endeared him to the fans or management, and it showed with his reduced role in the latter half of the 2010 season.
Rowand was limited to 91 at bats after the All-Star break as the Giants outfield became overloaded. Between Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Andres Torres and others, there simply was not room in the outfield.
It looked to be more of the same this season, that is, until Ross and Torres went down with injuries. An opportunity opened up, and Rowand has capitalized on it.
He is hitting .314 going into Saturday night's game against the Diamondbacks, and an early-season start is not anything new for Rowand.
In April last season, he hit .304 before going on the disabled list after being hit in the head by the Dodgers' Vicente Padilla.
Rowand was not the same player after that.
If he continues to play at this pace, the question has to be raised: Does Rowand remain a starter when Torres and Ross return?
Bruce Bochy has done a masterful job of mixing and matching and, with no disrespect to the other players, Rowand has to play if he keeps up his strong play.
Pat Burrell has provided power, but has not been there otherwise. His .162 average entering Saturday is the lowest of any everyday player, but his team-leading four home runs have kept him in the lineup.
The bigger question is, who is sent to Fresno and/or designated for assignment when Ross returns?
Rowand was on the short list, but he now has value, and the Giants will not eat a large contract. Nate Schierholtz could be the unfortunate odd man out without another person hitting the disabled list.
The veteran center fielder still has much to prove, but if he does not have a significant break in playing time, Rowand could be a key piece in the Giants' quest to repeat as champions.
Zack Farmer is a freelance sports reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and Patch.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @FarmboySports