CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ryne Sandberg did his best Thursday afternoon to convince a pack of reporters that Jimmy Rollins’ three-day benching was not disciplinary.
Sandberg said he just wanted to see Freddy Galvis play three days in a row.
Rollins has played in just seven of the Phillies’ 16 games this spring, but that didn’t stop Sandberg from also mentioning the need to monitor his shortstop’s playing time at a demanding position as another factor in the down time.
However, Sandberg’s there's-nothing-to-see-here story became a little tough to believe when it became clear he was bothered by a recent comment that Rollins made in the Philadelphia Daily News.
On Monday, with the losses and the 0-fers piling up, Rollins said something to the effect that he wasn’t concerned about the way things were going because it was just spring training.
“Who cares?” he said.
The comment hit the paper Tuesday morning, the same day that Rollins was abruptly scratched from the lineup. (Sandberg said it was a simple lineup change with no connection to Rollins’ comment.) Rollins also sat Wednesday and Thursday. He will play Friday in Bradenton.
Sandberg would not say when or how he learned of Rollins’ comment -- is he a Daily News subscriber or does he have a bootleg access code? -- but he definitely noticed it, and spoke to Rollins about it Thursday when the two finally got together after a three-day silence.
“I talked to him about that,” Sandberg said. “First of all, I know and believe that everyone in the locker room, including my staff, cares. I wanted him to clarify that because I wanted to make sure that he cared.”
Sandberg heard Rollins’ side of the “Who cares?” story and was satisfied.
“He was referencing himself and where he’s at right now as far as his offensive stroke and what he’s doing on the field,” Sandberg said. “So he was speaking for himself, that he wasn’t that concerned with it being that early in the spring.
“I wanted to make sure -- I know that everyone else in the locker room cares. So when he told me about what he was talking about, it made sense.
“Jimmy cares. I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t speaking for the ballclub with ‘Who cares?’"
After two straight seasons of no playoffs, Sandberg has brought a sense of urgency into this camp. Rollins is known for his cool, never-let-'em-see-you-sweat demeanor. That’s why he’s not fretting his 2-for-15 start at the plate.
Sandberg was asked Thursday whether he was satisfied with Rollins’ level of urgency in this camp.
“Once again, he’s a guy that’s geared to play 150, 160 games because he’s used to that,” Sandberg said. “He’s in good shape. This is his 14th year in the major leagues, spring training. I think he knows where he needs to be in March. I know that he’s going to be ready when he’s got to be ready.”
Earlier Thursday, Rollins spoke to reporters and said he was healthy. He theorized that his third straight game on the bench must have meant that Sandberg was upset with him (see story). That notion had gained credence the day before when Sandberg praised Galvis for being a positive influence on those around him. As a follow-up, Sandberg was asked if Rollins also had that impact.
“No comment,” Sandberg said.
The “no comment” fueled speculation that Sandberg was unhappy with the 35-year-old shortstop and sending him a message with the benching.
On Thursday, Sandberg said he regretted the way he handled the question.
“You know, I would liked to have not said that and expanded on what Jimmy has to offer and what he means to the ballclub,” Sandberg said. “He’s an important part of the team.”
Sandberg said his talk with Rollins was a good one. He said he and his shortstop are on the same page.
Time will tell if that’s the case.