PITTSBURGH - Jimmy Rollins was playing coy with the media yesterday, so it is difficult to tell whether he actually has a severe limp or if he was embellishing for the sake of theater. Whatever the case, it looks like the star shortstop could be sidelined for more than just yesterday after he fouled a ball off his right knee in the first inning on Saturday night. Manager Charlie Manuel said all he knows is that Rollins was present in the clubhouse but unavailable to play and that he is considered "day-to-day."
Rollins tried to play through the pain for a couple of innings Saturday before finally leaving the game. "By the bottom of the second inning, I was like, 'Please don't hit me the ball,' " Rollins told reporters after the 6-3 loss.
But Rollins said he did not think it would result in a disabled-list stint, even though he was walking with a pronounced limp yesterday.
"Write what you see," Rollins told reporters, limping away after declining further comment.
"What I see looks like a two-letter word," one of the reporters said, referring to the disabled list.
"H-U-R-T?" Rollins responded.
We'll take a wild guess about tonight's game: O-U-T with M-R-I, T-B-D.
The injury comes just as Rollins seemed to be finding some power. In his last 11 games, he has hit .292 with three doubles and a home run (he is slugging just .364 on the season). The Phillies also finally had their optimal lineup together, with Chase Utley back from his knee injury, Domonic Brown in rightfield and Shane Victorino recovered from a hamstring strain.
Even without Rollins, the unit broke out of a funk yesterday as Victorino, Utley, Brown Placido Polanco and Ryan Howard all had multiple hits. But Rollins' replacement at shortstop, utility man Wilson Valdez, grounded into an inning-ending doubleplay with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
"When we get Rollins back in there, our lineup is going to be a lot better," Manuel said. "It's going to be a whole lot better. We're going to have a much better lineup. We're going to score more runs."
On the first day of the series, Ryan Howard couldn't believe what he was seeing: The Pirates were taking infield practice in the overshift that they and every other team employs for the pull-hitter.
"I've never seen anybody actually practice the shift," Howard exclaimed to nobody in particular.
Howard definitely has his frustrations with the defensive positioning teams employ against him, but he says his philosophy is to ignore it: no change in approach, no bunt to the weak-side of the shift.
"I feel like that's what they want me to do," he said yesterday.
If ever there was a situation that called for it, it came in the fifth inning yesterday. The bases were loaded with one out and the Phillies trailed, 2-1. With Howard at the plate, the Pirates shifted all of their infielders to the right half of the field, with third baseman Josh Harrison standing nearly in line with second base. Shane Victorino could have run three quarters of the way home and made it back before the fielder got to the bag.
Does Howard even think about dropping a bunt in that situation?
"Not really," he said. "I just go up there and continue to think about my AB."
That particular AB lasted 13 pitches and ended with Howard booming a fly ball to dead centerfield that would have been a grand slam to just about any other corner of the park. The run scored, and the game was tied.