It was likely Charlie Manuel's first order of business when he arrived at Citizens Bank Park Thursday - check the status of Jimmy Rollins.
"He's in the lineup. He said he was feeling good," Manuel said before the Phillies and Chicago Cubs started a long night that began in suffocating heat and was interrupted by a swirling wind that ushered in a downpour and prompted a 1-hour, 17-minute rain delay.
Rollins had been limping around since he fouled a ball off his right knee Saturday against Pittsburgh. The veteran shortstop finished that at-bat, lined a double, winced all the way to second base, then left the game. His knee was so puffy and sore he had an MRI exam Monday. It showed a deep bone bruise.
After general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. left open the possibility Tuesday that Rollins might go on the disabled list, Rollins said that would be a mistake. He showed what he meant in his first start since the injury by hitting a three-run homer in the second inning that turned out to be the sum total of the Phillies offense.
In the Cubs half of the second, Rollins took a throw from Raul Ibanez, pivoted, and nailed Aramis Ramirez at second with his relay.
Rollins' homer came off Randy Wells, a nondescript righthander making his third start since he was activated after spending seven weeks on the disabled list with a strained forearm. The first two didn't go so well. But the Phillies have made a lot of guys like Wells look like Cy Young, and Wells was one pitch away from squirming out of his second jam in two innings.
But Rollins turned on a 3-2 fastball and sent it into the right-field seats to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead before a storm that blackened the sky over Center City descended on South Philly in the bottom of the third.
It was Rollins' 30th game batting leadoff this season after mostly batting third while Chase Utley was out of the lineup. He's clearly had more success hitting leadoff. He's hit three of his four homers and knocked in 16 of his 21 RBIs from the top spot in the lineup. Batting third, he didn't get his first RBI until his 54th plate appearance.
In the ninth inning with one out, Rollins ripped a vicious line drive that Cubs reliever Sean Marshall caught in self- defense, preventing the shortstop from getting on base as the potential winning run.
This is an important year for Rollins, who can become a free agent after this season. He needs more games like Thursday's to strengthen his case.