Phillies Notebook: Sandberg needs a productive Rollins
Interim manager Ryne Sandberg has ideas to get his veteran shortstop back on track.
AFTER GIVING struggling shortstop Jimmy Rollins a day off on Sunday, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg called the longtime, enigmatic leadoff hitter both "a big piece of the puzzle" and "a challenge of mine."
If Sandberg, who has an interim manager tag, hopes to stick around and have success in 2014, he will need a productive Rollins. Sandberg appears to have honed in on the task as something he wants to figure out in the season's final 6 weeks, as he continued the conversation yesterday at Citizens Bank Park.
"I've had conversations with him, but also I think it's my role to let him know what I expect of him and what I think he can do and what I think the team can do," Sandberg said. "For me, that's staying on top of the ball and utilizing speed."
Rollins has struggled to do both in the last 2 years.
According to fangraphs.com, Rollins' 19 percent infield fly-ball percentage was the highest in baseball in 2012; this year, his 12.9 percent ranks eighth highest in the National League.
When Rollins has reached base, he hasn't run much. He is 15-for-21 in stolen-base attempts this year. Excluding 2010, when he played in a career-low 88 games, Rollins has never had fewer than 30 attempts in any season in his career.
"When I look at Jimmy, he still has the ability to steal a base," Sandberg said. "I can see him being a little more aggressive in that area, using his speed. With that being said, if you're batting in the first or second spot, your job is to get on base and to do that, it's more about quality at-bats. With a guy with speed, it's about staying on top of the baseball and concentrating on hard ground balls and line drive stroke. I think that's something he can work at and get better. I think that can help him for the rest of his career, so that's something that will be stressed."
Sandberg talked about Rollins for nearly 10 minutes. He said Rollins also has to be less "pull-happy," with a focus on more line drives; instead of power numbers, he wants Rollins to zero in on improving his on-base percentage.
Sandberg said he sees a willing student in the 34-year-old Rollins.
"I do," Sandberg said. "I have great conversations with him, and I think with the constant communications of what is expected and needed from him. Is it going to happen overnight? No. But as we go forward and we have 39 games left, I talked to the guys on the first day and told them that these games were for them on being evaluated, ending on a good note and making adjustments that need to be made. Now is a good time to try something."
In late June, returning to Lehigh Valley after handling himself well for five starts in the big leagues, Tyler Cloyd was lost. So he spent 10 hours in the span of 3 days scouring through video, trying to find out what was different.
Cloyd went 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 26 starts between Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley last season. But after giving up four runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings in a game at Syracuse on July 4, Cloyd fell to 1-8 with 7.69 ERA in 11 starts with the IronPigs.
After laboring over the video, Cloyd made a couple of minor mechanical adjustments.
"I just wanted to get away from the things that were taking a toll on my arm," he said. "Staying back a little more, that was a big thing."
Since that Independence Day start, Cloyd went 4-1 with a 1.33 ERA in his final seven starts with the IronPigs, striking out 32 while walking five in 47 1/3 innings and holding opponents to a .199 OBP.
Cloyd was recalled by the Phillies to start in place of injured lefthander John Lannan tonight against the Rockies. Depending on whether Roy Halladay will be ready to rejoin the rotation this weekend, Cloyd could stick around for another start.
Halladay will make his second minor league rehab start tonight at Low A Lakewood.
Fellow righthander Jonathan Pettibone will also make his second start of his minor league rehab assignment. Pettibone, sidelined with a right shoulder strain since Aug. 2, will start at Triple A Lehigh Valley . . . Carlos Ruiz batted second in Sandberg's lineup last night; it's the second time Ruiz has hit second this month but only the third time in his career. "I think his stroke is conducive to batting second," said Sandberg, who hit second for the majority of his own career. "I like the at-bats he's had of late. He's a guy that can handle the bat and a situational guy. That could play into his strengths depending on the game situation, whether a ball needs to be driven to rightfield. He handles the bat real well" . . . When Rollins and Chase Utley took their positions last night, it was their 1,040th start as a doubleplay combination, tying New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano for the most starts among active doubleplay combos in baseball.