Manuel still deciding between Revere, Rollins in leadoff spot

Manuel still deciding between Revere, Rollins in leadoff spot

March 29, 2013, 10:00 pm
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Headed into his 13th big-league season, Jimmy Rollins is arguably the best leadoff man in Phillies’ history. Sure, Richie Ashburn won a batting crown and got into the Hall of Fame, but there are very few players who have produced numbers like Rollins has over the past two decades.

Still, when the season starts on April 1 in Atlanta, Manuel might have a new leadoff hitter.

Then again, he might not.

“I think that it will be pretty close. I think the chances of an everyday leadoff guy is too soon to tell,” Manuel said. “We haven’t gotten started yet. We’ll just wait and see.”

In the No. 2 spot in the batting order for Friday night’s exhibition game at Citizens Bank Park against the Blue Jays, Rollins could have to get comfortable with that spot. With Ben Revere on the roster, Manuel might have someone better at the top of the batting order.

Does Revere have what it takes to be the new guy at the top of the order?

“I think he does,” Manuel said. “In spring training, I was a little surprised that I saw a good offensive player. He’s a guy who makes contact, can move the ball all over the field, he can bunt, he is aggressive an aggressive player. I was a little bit surprised about it.”

Maybe it’s because Rollins hasn’t just been Manuel’s best option, he’s also been the only option. In the past, Manuel said he used Rollins at the top of his batting order for a lot of good reasons. The best of those, according to Manuel, was that he didn’t have anyone better.

Besides, said Manuel, what Rollins lacked in plate discipline and on-base percentage, he more than made up for it with his ability to produce runs. When the players at the bottom of Manuel’s order got on, Rollins was more than capable of knocking them in.

“I think that Jimmy has been a better option than anyone we’ve had,” Manuel said. “Basically, I like Jimmy Rollins leading off for a couple of things, one of them is the runs he produces from the leadoff spot. You may ask how he produces runs from the leadoff spot, well he’s knocking in the seventh, eighth and ninth-hole hitters. How does he do it? By knocking doubles, triples and homers.”

In his prime, Rollins, now 34, was a threat to lead the league in steals, runs and triples. He also has 193 career homers and has belted 21 or more in four seasons.

And while Rollins is still a threat to steal a base or two, he isn’t going to challenge for the league leadership any more. Though Rollins has swiped 30 bags in eight of the last nine seasons, his attempts have plateaued. Rollins is a lot choosier about when he runs, when in the past he would routinely attempt 40-plus steals per year.

Revere, on the other hand, turns 25 in May and has averaged nearly 60 stolen-base attempts per 162 games in his first two seasons. Though his plate discipline might be lacking and his power is nowhere close to Rollins’ ability to slug the ball, Revere could be Manuel’s new option as the table setter.

Though Revere doesn’t walk a lot, he also doesn’t strikeout much either. In 156 games last season, Rollins whiffed 96 times. Revere has struck out just 100 times in 254 games. Not only does Revere put the ball in play often, but also he rarely hits into double plays.

Last season, Revere grounded into eight double plays in 86 chances to do so. Rollins grounded into nine double plays in 87 chances.

Sounds like Manuel could just flip a coin to determine his leadoff man.

“I’m close, but at the same time, I’ll take the next couple days and see what happens,” the manager said. “I’ve got Ben leading off tonight and Rollins hitting second because lefty [Mark Buehrle is pitching]. I’ll see how I feel about it.”

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