Jimmy Rollins had a three-run home run and two walks in the Phillies' 10-6 win over the Tigers Friday afternoon. (USA Today Images)
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Ryne Sandberg liked what he saw of Jimmy Rollins in the Phillies’ 10-6 win over the Detroit Tigers Friday afternoon.
Rollins smacked a three-run home run to highlight the Phillies’ eight-run third inning.
But that wasn’t what Sandberg liked most.
“I liked the walks,” he said.
Rollins drew two of them in the game.
“With Jimmy batting in the two hole, becoming a baserunner and getting on base is a priority for him,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg spoke to Rollins about this when he took over as skipper last summer. He wants Rollins to work counts, hit line drives, get on base more, and use his legs. The dialogue has continued this spring.
Of course, Sandberg isn’t the first to speak with Rollins about this subject. Larry Bowa did during his time as manager. So did Charlie Manuel.
Rollins hit 23 home runs in 2012, but just six last season. His on-base percentage the last two seasons is just .317.
Sandberg would rather see the on-base numbers improve over the power.
“He’s still got his pop,” Sandberg said. “But it’s not something I’m stressing. I like the gap-to-gap stroke, keeping the ball up the middle. A home run is just a reaction on a pitch.”
Rollins’ home run was a long drive down the right-field line against minor-league right-hander Jose Valdez.
Kyle Kendrick made his first start of the spring. He allowed three runs in two innings. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out three.
“The first inning was a little rough,” Kendrick said. “I couldn’t throw strikes. My command was off. I was rusty. I was up a lot. I couldn’t find my release point. I’ll be better next time.”
Kendrick had an inconsistent season in 2013. He had a 3.46 ERA in his first 16 starts and a 6.45 ERA in his next 16. He went on the disabled list with a shoulder issue late in the season.
“I’m not going to make excuses,” he said. “I was worn down. I was a little tired. I think I figured it out this winter with my program. It won’t happen again.”
Kendrick was eligible for salary arbitration for the final time this winter. He and the team agreed on a salary of $7.675 million before a hearing was needed. The price tag on even mid-level starters is high so Kendrick could have a bigger pay day as he becomes a free agent after this season.
“This is a big year for the team and me personally,” he said. “I want to stay healthy, make all my starts, give us innings and a chance to win. That’s my goal. I want to pitch in the postseason.
“I would like to stay here. I love it here. We’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”
Phillippe Aumont rebounded from a shaky outing and had a 1-2-3 fifth inning Friday. He threw his first pitch to the backstop, but came back and fired strikes with his fastball.
Right-hander David Buchanan starts against the Yankees and CC Sabathia Saturday afternoon in Tampa. The Yankees will also unveil Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka in the game. The Phillies will have their own unveiling as Cuban import Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is scheduled to pitch two innings.