Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg did not put Jimmy Rollins in Sunday's starting lineup against the Dodgers. (USA Today Images)
Ryne Sandberg has many challenges as he gets situated in the Phillies’ manager’s chair.
Jimmy Rollins is one of them.
The 34-year-old shortstop is a top contributor when he’s on his game. But when he’s going badly, he can infuriate fans with frequent pop ups and lapses in hustle.
Rollins was not in the Phillies’ starting lineup on Sunday. It was his second time out of the lineup since the all-star break, but Sandberg said it had nothing to do with the shortstop's recent struggles.
“Just a day off,” Sandberg said. “Down the stretch, I will pick and choose some days for him and Chase Utley just to keep them strong and get some other guys a chance.”
Since the break, Rollins has struggled badly, hitting .214 with a .252 on-base percentage. In his last 13 games, he is hitting .170 (9 for 53) with a .200 on-base percentage. For the season, Rollins is hitting .248 with a .305 on-base percentage and a .339 slugging percentage.
The Phillies need more than that from Rollins.
Sandberg was asked whether he had any fresh ideas to get more out of Rollins. He was vague in his answer, but in so many words admitted that Rollins would be a focus.
“I have good talks with Jimmy and he’s a big piece of the puzzle,” Sandberg said. “That will be my job from here on out, no doubt about it. That goes for everybody, but him in particular. He is a big piece of the puzzle. He’s a good player. That’s a challenge of mine and we’ll stay after that.”
Phillies officials have made Rollins available for trades the last two summers, but interest has been lukewarm. Aside from that, Rollins has full no-trade rights and will not waive them. He re-emphasized that last week.
Rollins is signed for $11 million next season and his $11 million option for 2015 could vest with 600 plate appearances. If Rollins falls short of 600 plate appearances, the team could bring him back for $8 million in 2015 or Rollins could exercise a player option for $5 million and return.
However you slice it, Rollins is going to be here for a while longer.
The Phillies need more from him. Sandberg is already on the case.