Goals in sight, Rollins confident he'll bounce back
Longtime Phillies shortstop: 'I don't plan on putting on a different uniform'
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jimmy Rollins looked exhausted Wednesday afternoon as he left Ashburn Field at Carpenter Complex for the air conditioned Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field.
There were a couple of reasons for that.
First, Rollins' 21-month-old daughter has an ear infection and could not sleep through the night. Second, Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa used his fungo bat like a semi-automatic weapon to pepper him and his teammates with ground balls during a spirited workout.
Camp Sandberg is fun, Rollins said, "but it's Camp Bowa when we're on the field. He's trying to make us quick. Same old Bo. Bo and Vuke [former coach John Vukovich], always trying to make you quick. 'You had enough? You had enough?' Everybody out there is like, 'Damn, they kicked our butts today.' We're 1-1. We got them yesterday. We wore them out yesterday. Today they got us."
Rollins smiled. He enjoyed it.
Two days into camp, Rollins said he sees no reason why he will not rebound from the worst season of his career in 2013, when he hit .252 with six home runs, 39 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 22 stolen bases and a career-low .667 OPS. He ranked 12th out of 17 qualifying shortstops in OPS and 131st out of 140 qualifying players in the big leagues, which has some convinced the 35-year-old's best days have passed.
"It's only been one year," Rollins said. "2013 just wasn't it. People like to believe it's been a long time, but it was just 2013. It's just the truth of it."
Rollins said on the final day of last season, it was tough to play with nothing at stake.
Maybe a better start brings a better Rollins.
"I never stopped playing," he said. "It's just that nothing is on the line. You're never going to stop competing because as long as the pitcher is on the mound; you're not going to embarrass me. I'm not out here for my health. I'm still going to try to win."
But few outside the clubhouse and front office seem to think it can happen in Philadelphia. The Phils lost 89 games last season, finishing toward the bottom of the National League in scoring and ERA.
Rollins takes no offense.
"Honestly, a lot of it is just the way people view the organization," he said. "We were the first to lose 10,000 games. We have a long history of not winning. We just had a stretch of winning, but that's still going to be the perception. Then you have an organization like the Yankees. If they make two moves they're the best team in baseball again. But it's perception. It's always good to be favored, but when you're not …"
But it isn't that the Phillies just aren't favored. It's that some think the team is done.
"They're correct, it is done," Rollins said of the team's run of five consecutive NL East titles from 2007-11, which included two NL pennants and one World Series championship. "But so are the last two. We're onto the next chapter."
Rollins' next chapter with the Phils almost certainly includes him picking up 60 hits this season to pass Mike Schmidt for the most hits in franchise history. Rollins enters the season with 2,175. He trails only Hall of Famers Ed Delahanty (2,211), Richie Ashburn (2,217) and Schmidt (2,234).
"That's very cool," Rollins said. "It's not a new organization."
The Phillies have been around since 1883.
The Rays and Marlins they are not.
"I've worn this uniform a long time," Rollins said. "You can't not wear the same uniform for a long time and be in a position to be a leader in different categories. They're fun when they're offensive. It'll take a hell of a hitter and a hell of a power hitter to ever pass [Schmidt] in home runs. He might have that for a long, long, long time. But I have a chance to become the all-time hits leader. It's something [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] and [former manager] Charlie [Manuel] started to bring up two years ago. I had no idea."
Rollins said last July he had no plans to waive his 5-and-10 trade rights because "there are still a couple of things I'd like to be No. 1 in for this organization, so until those things are done, I'm not going anywhere."
It upset some fans that Rollins mentioned sticking around to break records.
"I don't plan on putting on a different uniform," Rollins repeated Wednesday. "That's just the way it is. I could say it that way. I could say I've got work I need to do. I could say I've got records I need to break. I could say I want to win another World Series or two. They would love that because it's said the way they want to hear it. But we weren't going to win a World Series last year, so I couldn't make that statement at that moment. It doesn't matter how it's said. I really don't plan on putting on another uniform.
"If I say something wrong, get on me. If I speak the truth, you can get on me, but it's not going to bother me. That's the thing. I'm straightforward. I'll be politically correct because I have to be at times, but I'm straightforward."
Fans loved when Rollins boldly proclaimed the Phils the team to beat in the NL East in 2007 or would win 100 games in 2008. (They did, including the postseason.) Rollins is out of the bold prognostication business, but he said he likes this team. He also likes his chances to bounce back.
"If they say we're bad, if they say we're good, it's like, 'OK,'" Rollins said. "I don't get excited until I get on the field and see it myself."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.