Phillies Stay or Go: Jimmy Rollins

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Phillies Stay or Go: Jimmy Rollins

The Phillies' first losing season since 2002 is sure to bring wholesale changes in the offseason. But who should stay and who should go? Over the next two weeks, we're asking that very question and putting players under the microscope.

Tuesday, we examined Ethan Martin (see story), and today we take a look at the Phils' veteran shortstop.

Jimmy Rollins
Position: Shortstop
Status: One year remaining on a three-year, $33 million deal with a vesting option worth $11 million for 2015.

Signature game of 2013
The old harbinger for Rollins and the Phillies was always runs. When Rollins scored, the Phillies usually won. That held up (for the most part) in 2013 when the Phillies went 8-3 in games in which Rollins scored two runs and 35-19 in games that he scored at least one run.

Memorably, Rollins belted career homer No. 199 on Sept. 11 at the Bank against the Padres to tie the game up in sixth. One more homer and Rollins becomes the first shortstop in major-league history to hit 200 homers, steal 400 bases and collect 2,000 hits. The only players to accomplish this feat are Paul Molitor, Johnny Damon, Craig Biggio, Marquis Grissom, Roberto Alomar, Barry Bonds, Joe Morgan and Rickey Henderson.

In 2013, Rollins also set the franchise record for doubles and will set club records in 2014 with 263 more at-bats and 60 more hits.

Season as a whole
Though Rollins appeared in 160 games for just the second time of his career in 2013, Rollins had a career-low year in homers, RBIs, triples, slugging and OPS to go with a .318 on-base percentage.

The only difference between 2013 and 2012 was Rollins’ home run and RBI numbers. With his 35th birthday approaching, Rollins’ bat seems to have slowed a bit. However, Rollins finished the season strong, batting .292 with five stolen bases in September.

Can Rollins carry his strong September into 2014? The Phillies sure hope so. In the meantime, look for Rollins to show up for spring training lighter and in better shape. As he gets older, improved fitness will make all the difference.

Stay or go
Rollins’ option vests for 2015 with 434 more plate appearances in 2014. Considering that Rollins averages 680-plus plate appearances in his 13 full big-league seasons, the Phillies will have the veteran shortstop for two more seasons. Owed as much as $22 million over those two years, Rollins might be difficult to trade. Throw in the fact that as a 10-and-5 man Rollins can veto any deal he wants, trading him is nearly impossible.

So whether you like it or not, Rollins very likely will be the Phillies’ shortstop for the next two seasons.

What they're saying ...
"There are a bunch of new pieces. We haven't had that around here for a long time. I'm excited about them. They're good, young players -- big-eyed. A lot of hopes and wishes, it's our part to make sure they come true. It's fun seeing the energy and excitement every single day. The world is still theirs and it's at hand. They can change it. I was that guy. Now it's up to me, Chase [Utley] and Ryan [Howard] to make sure they do change it."

-- Jimmy Rollins, September, 2013

“I've noticed a lot more walks. I've noticed that he is using the whole diamond and getting hits up the middle and to the opposite field. And I see his on-base percentage and his batting average going up. I see a different mind-set as far as hitting line drives and using the whole field, and he is having success with that.

“He's a very good base runner and he's very good at going first to third and he's good at scoring runs when he gets on base. He has good base-running skills and it's fun to watch."

-- Ryne Sandberg on Rollins’ play in September of 2013

“I mentioned to him about hitting at the top of the order and scoring runs and applying his base-running skills and how that's one of his biggest assets for the team going forward. With that has come line drives and doubles. It's not about not swinging for power because he still has the natural doubles power and when he did hit a home run [on Sept. 11] I thought that was the result of having good at-bats leading up to that. That's the full package -- hit for average, get on base, have a chance to score runs and I think doubles are power numbers. He's had a lot of doubles the last month. That's good, too.”

-- Sandberg, September, 2013

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Today's Lineup: Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi, Andrew Knapp all get starts

Just mere hours after topping the Braves in dramatic fashion in the 10th inning, the Phillies will have a much different lineup take the field Sunday afternoon as they look for the sweep of Atlanta (see Sunday's game notes).

Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Andrew Knapp will all start Sunday's series finale.

Nava will bat fifth start in left field for the ailing Howie Kendrick, who's missed the last week with an oblique issue. Nava's sample size at the plate so far this season is small, but he's still 8 for 21 (.381 batting average) with two homers, two doubles and 7 RBI. So it makes sense that manager Pete Mackanin wants to get Nava some more at-bats.

Stassi bats sixth and gets the nod at first in place of Tommy Joseph, who had that odd sequence of events late in Saturday's win. First, Joseph had an ugly at-bat with the game tied in the ninth inning. Then in the top of the 10th, he caught a popped-up bunt and suddenly made an ill-advised throw to an empty third base, helping the Braves plate the go-ahead run. So today could be a day just to clear Joseph's head.

Both Nava and Stassi are left-handed bats against Braves righty starter Mike Foltynewicz.

Knapp will give Cameron Rupp the day-game-after-night-game breather behind the plate Sunday.

One note on Atlanta's lineup: Brandon Phillips, who drilled the game-tying homer off Edubray Ramos in the top of the ninth on Saturday, has been moved up to the second spot in the order for Sunday's finale.

Both teams' lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Aaron Altherr RF
3. Odubel Herrera CF
4. Maikel Franco 3B
5. Daniel Nava LF
6. Brock Stassi 1B
7. Freddy Galvis SS
8. Andrew Knapp C
9. Zach Eflin SP

Braves
1. Ender Inciarte CF
2. Brandon Phillips 2B
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Matt Kemp LF
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Kurt Suzuki C
7. Jace Peterson 3B
8. Dansby Swanson SS
9. Mike Foltynewicz SP

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Phils aim for first sweep of the season

Phillies (8-9) vs. Braves (6-11)
1:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies and Braves played quite the game Saturday night. 

The teams went back and forth in the final two innings, culminating in Maikel Franco's walk-off single. What do they have in store for Sunday? Zach Eflin will take the hill for the Phillies opposite Mike Foltynewicz, a matchup of developing right-handers in their 20s.

Here are five things to know for Sunday's game.

1. Eflin back to form
Promoted to the majors at the beginning of the week, Eflin looked back to form in his first MLB start of 2017.

Eflin had the unfortunate problem of needing to rehab two knee surgeries this offseason, but clearly has not lost much in terms of his stuff. He looked a lot like the Eflin who produced five quality starts in a stretch of six appearances last summer, not the one who gave up 20 runs in his last 13 innings.

While he threw just five innings against the Mets, he limited New York to just two runs while working around six baserunners. Both runs came in the first inning and he retired 13 of his last 15 batters faced. 

The 23-year-old righty lives off his low-90s fastball and sinker while mixing in a slider and curveball. He was sinker heavy in his first start of 2017 and it was effective at Citi Field.

One of his best starts last season came against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin needed just 92 pitches to throw a six-hit complete game with just one earned run allowed, a solo homer by Ender Inciarte. He didn't walk any Braves batters and struck out six in a quick game (2:08 in duration). Atlanta slugger Freddie Freeman went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and no batter got more than one hit.

2. Foltynewicz vs. the Phils
Foltynewicz hasn't had an ideal start to the season. His first start came in inclement weather vs. the Pirates, then he had to come out of the bullpen with a series of off days, which allowed the Braves to skip their fifth starter.

His most recent appearance came back in the rotation on Tuesday and he held his own against the Nationals, who were without a few key veterans but still had Max Scherzer on the hill. Foltynewicz held the Nats the just two runs over seven innings, scattering nine baserunners while striking out three batters. He walked four batters and has a paltry 8/7 K-BB ratio this year. 

In his three seasons with the Braves, the 25-year-old righty has a sub-optimal 4.85 ERA over 222 2/3 innings. However, his ERA got much better from 2015 to 16 (5.71 to 4.31) and his 4.26 ERA thus far in 2017 isn't half bad. 

Foltynewicz lives off his mid-90s fastball that has touched 97 this season. He mixes in a slider that draws a lot of groundballs, a sinker and a changeup. His velocity is down a little this season, which could explain his poor strikeout rate.

Folynewicz is 2-1 in four appearances against the Phillies in his career but has a 6.00 ERA, allowing five homers and 12 runs in 18 innings. Franco and Tommy Joseph each have one of those home runs while Odubel Herrera has three hits off the right-hander.

3. Ryan Howard: Braves minor leaguer
Believe it or not, Ryan Howard could be playing for another NL East team this year. The former Phillies slugger made his debut Saturday night for the Gwinnett Braves, Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate. 

Howard had himself quite a night, going 2 for 2 with two singles, an RBI, a hit-by-pitch and a walk, which was intentional. For someone signed so recently to a minor-league pact, it was an encouraging showing, although it's unlikely he'll be called up anytime soon.

There are two major obstacles to Howard making it back to the show with the Braves. The first is Freddie Freeman. With Freeman, the Braves already have a lefty slugger at first base for the foreseeable future. The other issue is Howard isn't on the Braves' 40-man roster. Atlanta has little incentive to add Howard to its 40-man because they're in full rebuild mode and need to prioritize their prospects.

Still, there may be something left in the tank for Howard. He still hit 20 home runs last season and was quite effective in the second half, particularly as a platoon bat. Even if the Braves ultimately don't need Howard, his opportunity in Gwinnett is a chance to audition for other teams as well. Veterans on minor-league deals often have opt-outs or could be granted their release if another team shows interest. 

If you're curious, Howard doesn't play Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, until July 17-19 and doesn't play in Lehigh Valley until a week later.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Freddy Galvis struck out twice on Saturday, but he also extended his hitting streak to six games with a double. It was just his second extra-base hit since April 7.

Braves: Freddie Freeman has raised his average to .400 on the season. His .400/.507/.850 batting line won't last, but he looks to have brought his game to another level this year.

5. This and that
• The Phillies are on a three-game winning streak, including two straight over the Braves. Despite finishing ahead of Atlanta in the standings in 2016, the Phillies lost their last seven games vs. the Braves last season.

• The Phils have won two extra-inning games in the last five days. They haven't done that since April 17 and 20 of last season.

• Aaron Altherr has a six-game hitting streak going and has raised his average to .379. He has doubled in consecutive games and has two hits in three straight games. For good measure, he's added stolen bases in two of Phillies' last three games.