His last pregame jog, 30 games and 35 days ago, had ended badly. So on Monday night, his patience strained as badly as his right calf had been, Jimmy Rollins finally headed for another light run in Citizens Bank Park's outfield.
The early arrivers among the sellout crowd of 45,371 saw the returning all-star as he neared first base. As more fans spotted him, aided by Ryan Howard's emcee-like pointing, the cheer grew deeper and stronger until soon the impromptu ovation rumbled through the ballpark like the Frankford El.
It was matched when Rollins was introduced, and again in the first inning when he both gunned down Andrew McCutchen and drove in the Phillies' first run in a 12-2 triumph over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With Rollins back at shortstop for the first time since he strained his calf before the season's sixth game and went on the disabled list, the Phillies J-Rolled to their fourth straight victory, their 10th in 12 games.
Rollins also singled, doubled and walked to add to a reawakened offense's 13-hit output. Howard (a two-out, two-run single) and Jayson Werth (a three-run homer) drove in five runs in back-to-back, third-inning at-bats, while Kyle Kendrick settled down to coast to his second victory of 2010.
Howard belted his franchise-record ninth career grand slam off ex-Phillie Jack Taschner in the eighth and Werth doubled home another run in the seventh.
The return of Rollins had to be a sobering sight for the remainder of the National League. A Phillies team that already looked to be finding its form after a so-so April now has one of its chief catalysts and best players back.
Normally, Rollins would be at the top of the lineup. But last night, when Chase Utley was unable to play because of "flulike symptoms, Charlie Manuel put Rollins in the No. 3 spot.
"He's been swinging the bat," said Manuel, when asked if his shortstop might be rusty. "He's seen live pitching. He's ready."
There was no urgency for Manuel to reinsert Rollins into the leadoff slot. The Phillies, after all, hadn't been suffering there recently.
Shane Victorino, who hit there again Monday, was on base three more times, singling twice and scoring on Rollin's RBI ground ball in the first.
On the team's just-completed road trip to Colorado and Milwaukee, Victorino hit .435 with a double, three triples, a homer and 7 RBIs.
Still Rollins adds an emotional spark as well as offense, speed and defense. He showed a little of all three in his return.
Two batters after Pittsburgh's Delwyn Young led off the game with a homer to right field, the speedy McCutchen smoked a ground ball into the hole. The Gold Glove shortstop got it on a backhand grab, set his feet instantly, and lasered a throw that nipped the Pirates centerfielder.
In the bottom of the inning, after Victorino had singled, stole second and moved to third on Placido Polanco's right-side grounder, Rollins pushed a Charlie Morton breaking ball to second base to score the tying run.
Rollins' defensive play seemed to settle Kendrick, who allowed just one more run in eight innings on a night when the bullpen needed a break.
The shortstop popped up on an impatient, not-so-untypical first-pitch swing when the Phils had loaded the bases in the third, only to be picked up by Howard and Werth.
But he singled in the fifth and, seemingly running as fluidly as ever, doubled to right and scored in the seventh.