Clifton for the Sweep, Plus J-Roll Speaks

Clifton for the Sweep, Plus J-Roll Speaks

Cliff Lee (9-6, 2.83) toes the rubber this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park and will take on right-hander Aaron Harang (8-2, 3.29) as the Phillies look to continue their hot play of late and sweep the Padres out of town. The Fightins have taken the first three of this four game series with San Diego, and if they can earn the victory today, it will be their second consecutive four-game sweep of the Pads this season.

It's an early 1:05 pm start this afternoon from South Philadelphia.

We thought we'd use this game thread to take a look at what young James Calvin Rollins had to say about a wide range of topics. J-Roll spoke at length with Delaware Online's David Hale about how he's feeling physically, how he's been swinging the bat, how he keeps refueling the tank after all these years, and how he would feel if things didn't work out next season and Jimmy had to put on another team's uniform.

You can read Hale's article about Jimmy or opt for the full transcript of their discussion here.

There are plenty of insightful quotes from Rollins, and we could have highlighted many of them, but Jimmy on his approach is quite interesting.

Q. It’s not that you’ve changed who you are as a player, but
your walk rate is up this year, you’re seeing more pitches, swinging at
fewer first pitches.

A. It’s a little different, yeah. You just get
smarter. My approach hasn’t changed, you just get smarter with it.
There’s certain things that you naturally become better at. You start
recognizing it. You make adjustments. My approach is the same. I’m going
to be aggressive. Sometimes, it’s like — I don’t feel like swinging at
the first pitch. Other days, I’m swinging. You find what works. Some
days I don’t have the energy to swing at the first pitch, so I look for a
walk. You take a couple pitches and then you start getting into a
rhythm of the at-bat and can carry that through the whole game. In the
past, you feel a little tired – well, I’m going to make something
happen. I should go out there and force something to happen. It usually
doesn’t work out that way.

The second thing that sticks out, as Jimmy mentions above, is his energy or lack there of.

Perhaps all of that Red Bull is failing to give him wings as advertised.

From watching Rollins play the field, you wouldn't have thought for a second he has lost a step, is lacking energy, or is banged up. Jimmy's still a world class defender.

But occasionally you see him run to first on a basically routine ground out and his foot isn't exactly on the gas pedal. We know Jimmy's a bit banged up and getting older, but Hale's quotes from Rollins really make it seem worse than I had thought it actually was.

Jimmy on his thought process on stealing:

The way I choose to steal a base or the situation is always the same. If
it’s a base I have to steal, I’m going to steal it. If I don’t
necessarily have to steal it, it’s how do I feel today? How are my legs?
I’m not just going to run if I’m not feeling good and take a chance of
getting thrown out. If it’s a situation where I absolutely have to go,
the adrenaline takes care of you. My legs are a little tired today, my
knee’s bothering me – but I have to go. And then you make that first
move and it’s like – whoosh. Then you stop and it’s like, oh shoot that
hurts. But during that time you do what you have to do and it doesn’t
bother you.

At least we know he can get the job done when he absolutely needs to, but do those sound like quotes from a guy you'd give big money and big years to?

Make no mistake about it, Jimmy Rollins is one of the Phillies leaders and we most certainly hope to see him back at Citizens Bank Park next season and beyond. But will Jimmy and his agent see eye-to-eye with Ruben Amaro Jr.?

J-Roll says, after spending his entire career in Philly, he doesn't get attached.

"I’ve never been attached to anything. I understand everything is temporary," Rollins told Hale.

I'm not sure I believe him though.

>>Rollins Talks About His Season, His Role & His Future [Philled In]

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.