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Phillies: The Rollins-Sandberg relationship

The SportsXchange

Jimmy Rollins was on the nearly five-hour round trip to Fort Myers, Fla., for the Philadelphia Phillies game against the Boston Red Sox for a rare night game on March 15. Fellow veterans Chase Utley and Ryan Howard did not have to make the trip.

But Rollins' inclusion was hardly a surprise: the longest-tenured Phillies player was out of the lineup for three straight games earlier in the week. Manager Ryne Sandberg said he was resting Rollins to ensure that he wasn't overplaying the 35-year-old shortstop this spring with a long season ahead.

Rollins, however, was one of only two Phillies regulars, along with catcher Carlos Ruiz, to have started fewer than 10 games entering play on March 15. Sandberg admitted to having a conversation with Rollins on the third day of the shortstop's curious extended stay out of the lineup regarding comments Rollins made in the Philadelphia Daily News earlier in the week.

When asked about the importance of spring training results and statistics, Rollins told the paper, "Who cares?" He went on to say that no one will remember batting averages and other spring numbers in March as long as they are on the field and producing in March.

The next morning, Rollins was scratched out of the starting lineup. Two days later, Sandberg wanted to clarify those comments with Rollins.

"Jimmy cares," Sandberg said following their discussion. "I wanted to make sure that he wasn't speaking for the ball club with 'who cares?' ... I know and believe that everyone in the locker room including my staff cares. Now what he was referencing to was himself and where he's at right now as far as his offensive stroke and what he's doing on the field. So he was speaking for himself that he wasn't that concerned with it being that early in the spring."

A possible riff between the Hall of Fame manager and former MVP shortstop began on March 12 -- a day after Rollins' comments were published in the Daily News -- when Sandberg praised the energy and positivity reserve shortstop Freddy Galvis brought to the park every day. When asked about Rollins' attributes in the same categories, Sandberg offered: "No comment."

A day later, Sandberg said he wanted to retract that comment and spoke about the importance of Rollins to his team. But in the first two days of Rollins' benching, the manager hadn't spoken to the shortstop.

"Obviously he's upset about something," Rollins said.

NOTES, QUOTES

--LHP Cliff Lee was named Opening Day starter. It is Lee's first Opening Day nod as a member of the Phillies and this second of his career. Lee started the opener for the Cleveland Indians in 2009. This spring, Lee has a 2.63 ERA in four starts. He pitched five shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox on March 15.

"I look forward to it," Lee said. "I'm ready to go. It's coming on us pretty quick. It's two weeks away, so I'm ready to go."

--1B Ryan Howard hit his first home run of the spring in a 6-5 loss to the Pirates on March 14. Howard was hitting .243 with three extra-base hits and 15 strikeouts in his first 13 games of the exhibition season.

--1B/LF Darin Ruf was hitting .222 through the first three weeks of the exhibition season but has two home runs, two doubles and is tied with Marlon Byrd for the most total bases (18) in 17 spring games. Ruf isn't a lock for the Opening Day roster, but could work himself into spelling both Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown off the bench in 2014.

--2B Chase Utley doesn't have an extra-base hit through three weeks of Grapefruit League play. Utley is hitting .188 (6-for-32) with five strikeouts and one walk in 12 games.

--RHP Jonathan Papelbon allowed two runs on three hits -- all with two outs -- in the Phillies' 5-0 loss to the Pirates on March 16. Papelbon's fastball topped out at 92 mph.

"Stuff wise I thought he was OK," pitching coach Bob McClure said. "His location is still a little rusty.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "No comment." -- Ryne Sandberg, on the energy and positive influence Jimmy Rollins provides, after the manager raved about how reserve infielder Freddy Galvis brings those qualities to the ballpark daily.
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