After being mysteriously benched for three consecutive games, Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins returned to the lineup this afternoon and hit out of the two spot. There has been much speculation regarding Rollins’ benching this week, and it appears manager Ryne Sandberg is unsatisfied with Rollins’ energy thus far in spring.
This is not the shortstop’s first issue with coaching. Charlie Manuel benched Rollins a couple of times after he failed to run out a ground ball and questioned his effort.
During an interview this week when asked about the situation, Sandberg replied “No comment.” He has since admitted he regretted saying no comment and has talked with Rollins.
Sandberg is clearly looking to motivate the longest tenured Phillie and hopefully he is successful. Rollins has not performed to his full ability for a few seasons, and the Phillies will need their best from every player this season.
Sandberg is going to be a no nonsense coach and could become an interesting storyline as the season progresses. If he is willing to bench Rollins to send a message now, what will he do in the regular season if Ryan Howard goes through a slump? Will he be allowed to bench the $25 first baseman? Will the veterans react to these types of tactics?
After all, Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick and Rollins already have their World Series rings and their fair share of wealth. Sandberg is a Hall of Fame player and deserves the respect of even the most veteran players, but it has been three years since they played in a playoff game.
While it is unlikely this becomes a problem, it is still something to monitor throughout the year. The Phillies have been regarded as one of the best clubhouses across MLB for several years.
Cliff Lee is a prime example; he was there, had a great time with the team and organization. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. traded him away without confronting him about it, but when Lee hit free agency, he still chose to come back to Philadelphia, taking less money than he was offered elsewhere, because he enjoyed his time in Philly.
There is no doubt that this is a tight-knit group, especially considering the core players have been together for so long. Expect to see them rally around each other and motivate from within without Sandberg having to step in again. Spring training can be a daunting time for veterans and it can be hard to stay focused, but it is an important time to get into the swing of the season.