CLEARWATER, Fla. – Jimmy Rollins is healthy and wants to play.
But the veteran shortstop is not in the Phillies’ lineup for a third straight day Thursday.
This isn’t a relatively new manager giving an entrenched veteran a little mid-spring breather.
This is Ryne Sandberg benching Jimmy Rollins.
And Rollins knows it.
“Obviously he’s upset about something,” Rollins said before drills Thursday morning. “When he’s ready, he’ll let me know.”
Rollins said he hadn’t spoken to Sandberg in a couple of days.
Rollins was initially supposed to travel to Lake Buena Vista for a game against the Braves on Tuesday, but he was pulled from the lineup that morning. He learned that he was out of the lineup in a morning phone call from someone in the clubhouse. Rollins would not say who called him.
Rollins was not on the travel list to Sarasota on Wednesday. Freddy Galvis got the start at shortstop. After that game, Sandberg praised Galvis for his energy and the positive influence he has on those around him.
As a follow-up, Sandberg was asked if Rollins also had that impact.
“No comment,” the manager said.
With that no-comment, Sandberg said plenty.
“Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion,” Rollins said. “It doesn’t make it right, but he’s the manager so he gets to have last say.”
Sandberg was not immediately available for comment Thursday morning.
Galvis got the start at shortstop against the Yankees on Thursday.
It is very unusual for a healthy regular not to play three days in a row.
“I don’t know,” Rollins said. “You have to go ask the manager. I don’t write the lineups.
“It is unusual, yes, but I’m not going to try to second-guess or predict or try to come up with a reason why.
“Over the course of spring training, it could have been one specific incident he’s upset about it. That’s something that when he’s ready he’ll let me know.”
Rollins is hitting .133 (2 for 15) this spring. For the record, Galvis is 4 for 27 (.148).
So what is eating at Ryno?
The Phillies are 3-10-2 after 15 games. Winning is not everything in spring training, but Sandberg has indicated he’d like to see some urgency, cleaner defense and offensive production from his team.
Rollins, meanwhile, has a prescription for chill pills. On Tuesday, he was quoted in the Daily News as saying, “Who cares?” when asked about spring training results.
Could that quote be what’s eating at Sandberg?
Rollins was asked about the quote.
“I agree 100 percent [with Sandberg],” Rollins said. “No one wants to go out there and lose, but ultimately at the end of the day, what does it mean?
“No matter how much you want it to taste like an apple, it’s an orange. No matter how much you want to make these games count for something, when April comes around people aren’t talking about this.
“Until April starts, what are you going to do except keep working? No one is down here snapping helmets and bats and cursing out umpires. But the very first pitch in April, that competitiveness comes out because every pitch matters.”
If Sandberg is trying to light a fire under Rollins – well, Rollins said that’s not necessary.
“There’s no fire that needs to be lit,” he said. “Never has been, especially when things count.”
Sandberg was the Phillies’ third-base coach for 4½ months last season. He became manager, taking over for Charlie Manuel, in mid-August and skippered the team for the final 44 games. In that time, he had frank conversations with Rollins and urged the free-swinging 35-year-old shortstop to work counts and keep the ball out of the air. Sandberg also instituted a rule saying all players had to be in the clubhouse by 3 p.m. for night games. The rule was believed to be directed mostly toward Rollins.
Though he has not spoken to his manager in a couple of days, Rollins said his relationship with Sandberg was good.
“We talk,” Rollins said. “Except for the last two days.”
Rollins occasionally ran afoul of Manuel and was reprimanded. The difference: He never had to guess what was eating at the skipper. Manuel always told Rollins what was going on.
“He’s completely different from Charlie, right from the onset,” Rollins said. “Different personalities. [Sandberg’s] a real quiet guy. Charlie was a get-in-your-face and jokester type of guy, so we’re still learning [Sandberg] and he’s still learning us. Being a coach and being a manager are two completely different things so they’re going to be completely different, just learning what makes him go and vice versa.”
Rollins, just 60 hits from becoming the Phillies’ all-time leader in that category, will make $11 million this season. He has a player option for $5 million for 2015, but that deal could become guaranteed for $11 million if he gets 434 plate appearances this season.
If Sandberg were to ever bench Rollins during the season it could impact next year’s lineup and payroll.
“That hasn’t even crossed my mind,” Rollins said.
The Phillies travel to Bradenton on Friday to play the Pirates.
Will Rollins’ benching end that day?
“I expect to play every day,” Rollins said. “Whenever he writes me in the lineup, I’ll be there.”