02/19/11 5:31 PM EST
Rollins aiming to rebound, retire a Phillie
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
The spot has become a Spring Training tradition.
It is where Rollins has addressed every upcoming season the past few years. He talked about his "We're the Team to Beat" prediction in 2007. He talked about his 100-win prediction in '08. He talked about defending the team's second World Series championship in franchise history in '09. And last spring, he talked about trying to get back to the World Series.
This spring, Rollins talked about bouncing back from arguably the worst offensive season of his career, and finishing his career in Philadelphia.
Oh, he made one prediction, too.
"Yeah, we'll win 100 games," he said. "I really plan on going after, who is it, Seattle won [116 in 2001]. We'll get somewhere hopefully in that range, but that requires, after being lucky enough to stay healthy, having everybody doing their job on the mound, in the field and in the box."
Rollins plans on doing his job in the batter's box this season.
He hit just .243 with 16 doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 41 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in only 88 games because of calf and hamstring injuries. He had a .686 OPS, his lowest mark since 2002.
Rollins has said in the past he wants to be remembered as one of the best shortstops to play the game, but his performance has dipped each of the previous three seasons. Trying to return to form, Rollins changed a few things. He ran more, tried yoga and arrived in Clearwater early.
"As you get older, you get a little smarter," Rollins said. "You say, 'Forget it. Stop being in denial.' I heard Chipper Jones say the other day, 'Just swallow your pride.'"
If Rollins, who typically is one of the last position players to arrive to camp, plays how he expects to play, he believes he will finish his career in Philadelphia.
"I'm confident of that," he said. "Obviously, that's up to me. I help them make a decision. So if I do good, it makes it easy on them. If I don't do good, which I don't plan on happening, it will be a very tough decision. ... If I have a good year, I'll probably spend the rest of my career here. There's no doubt about it."
Because of Rollins' struggles each of the previous two seasons, some have suggested Rollins could hit fifth in the Phillies' lineup. Rollins has power, and he could provide Ryan Howard some protection since Jayson Werth signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals.
Don't bet on it happening. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has said he considers Rollins a leadoff hitter.
So does Rollins.
"Would I do that? Yes," he said.
But would he like to do it?
"No," he said. "I'm a leadoff hitter."
He said he does not think the five-hole is a demotion, but, "in the five-hole I can't be all that I am. I can't get out there and steal bases and run wild like I want to. I'm not going to score the runs that I want to. I'm not going to have the impact on the team that I want to in the five-hole. That's just the way that it is. ... My game is stealing bases and making things happen, and in the five-hole, you're going to have to shut it down. You have your time to run, but you get out there and start running and now they pitch around guys, now you get the pitcher up with two outs or you stay at first and hope a guy hits a ball in the gap."
If Rollins returns to form and hits leadoff, it probably is the best option for the Phillies. He said he thinks he has better seasons -- better than his 2007 National League MVP campaign -- in him.
"That is definitely realistic," he said. "Those were great numbers. There's no doubt about it. But that wasn't my goal anyway. I haven't hit .300. Thirty homers were nice. I've always said I want to drive in 100 runs and I was a little short of that. Triples were a bonus. I haven't hit 50 doubles yet. There are still things I have to attain ... scoring 150 runs."
Rollins is in the final season of a six-year, $46.5 million contract. The Phillies are expected to wait and see how Rollins performs this season before they figure out how they want to attack his future. But there are few quality shortstops out there and none ready in the system, so the possibility exists if Rollins struggles, he still could be in Phillies pinstripes next season.
"My whole life, I always feel like I've had something to prove," he said, although he added he does not feel he has anything more to prove this season. "That's the chip you have to play with. If you want to be the best, you have to go and prove it. People aren't going to give you that title. That's still my intention. It's not like you get hurt and then you come and try to be that much better the next year. I plan on being that much better every single year. At the end of the season, you look at the numbers and hopefully they are that much better."
They will look even better with another ring on his finger. Teammates like Brad Lidge have said they cannot waste an opportunity to win a World Series with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in the rotation.
"I'd agree with that," Rollins said. "That's what we wanted last year. It didn't happen. Nobody was satisfied with losing in the NLCS and winning 97 games. You can never be satisfied with that once you've won the World Series. If you've never won, that's progress. But we have been there, so it feels like we keep coming up short."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.