Sandberg wants Rollins on base more often

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Sandberg wants Rollins on base more often

Ryne Sandberg has talked a lot about Jimmy Rollins the last couple of days. It’s pretty clear that getting more production from Rollins is one of Sandberg’s chief missions.

“It feels good to know you’re a priority,” Rollins said of his new manager’s attention.

Sandberg, who took over as the Phillies’ interim manager after Charlie Manuel was let go Friday, met with Rollins on Saturday.

“The main thing he said is I have my career and we have teammates, and he wants me to continue both in the right direction,” Rollins said. “More than anything is getting back to being the leader and leading the way because we have a lot of young guys and they look up to veteran players -- myself, Chase (Utley) -- especially the infielders, and just getting back to doing that and that’s fun.”

In terms of production, Sandberg told Rollins he wants him on base more. Rollins entered Monday night hitting .248 with a woeful .305 on-base percentage for the season. His .644 OPS ranked 141st out of 151 qualifying major-league hitters.

Rollins led off for the Phillies on Monday night. He entered the game hitting .214 with a .260 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.

The Phillies were 6-21 in that span.

“If you’re batting in the first or second spot, your job is to get on base,” Sandberg said before the game. “To do that, it’s about having quality at-bats, and if the guy has speed like Jimmy, for me, it’s about staying on top of the baseball and concentrating on hard ground balls and line drives.

“I think that’s something he can work at and get better at, and I think that will help him for the rest of his career, so that’s something that will be stressed.

“I’ve had conversations with him about it. Also, I think it’s my role to let him know what I expect of him and what I think he can do and what I think the team needs him to do, and for me that’s staying on top of the ball and utilizing his speed.”

Sandberg said Rollins’ goal should not be 15 to 20 home runs.

It should be scoring 100 runs.

“That’s the proper goal for him,” Sandberg said.

Rollins has reached 100 runs six times in his career, but he entered Monday night with just 44 in 122 games. That’s not all his doing. The Phillies are a poor offensive team and anyone’s runs total will suffer for that. But Rollins does need to get on base more. He admitted that.

“I can only control so much of that, but I can put myself in position more often to be a 100-run guy by getting on base,” he said. “But those are things that have been in demand of me since 2001. Nothing that he’s asked me to do is anything new. The voice is new, but not the message.”

Sandberg admitted that it takes special player to embrace change, but added, “I think it also takes maybe just a change or a relationship or communication of what’s expected.”

In addition to striving to hit the ball on a line or on the ground more, Sandberg would like to see Rollins go to the opposite field more.

That might be tough, Rollins said.

“I understand where he’s coming from, but that’s not going to happen,” Rollins said. “My best years, I’ve never hit the ball the other way. If the ball gets deep it will go the other way, but I’m not going to sit there -- a lot of times that’s where I do get in trouble, letting the ball get deep on me.”

Rollins said he wasn’t trying to be stubborn saying that. He said he simply knows his swing.

But the 34-year-old shortstop realizes he needs to reach base more, and Sandberg said he has found Rollins to be a willing student.

“Make the pitchers come to you, work your walks, battle your at-bats, try to get on base,” Sandberg said. “Jimmy has enough pop to hit the ball in the gaps and get his doubles. So for me it’s about keeping a line drive stroke and improving his on-base percentage. That’s what the team needs.

“It will be a challenge,” Sandberg added. “Is it going to happen overnight? I don’t think so. But we have 39 games left. I told these guys, ‘These games are for you. Show what you can do.’ If there are any adjustments that need to be made, now is a good time to try something. So we’ll see. But I think it will be for the betterment of himself and the team as we go forward if Jimmy can do these things.”

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

Phillies' clubhouse reflects on life of Marlins' Jose Fernandez

NEW YORK — The clubhouse mood following the Phillies17-0 loss to the Mets Sunday was somber, in part because of the disastrous game that had just wrapped up, but also because of the tragic news of Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez’s death in a boating accident early Sunday morning.

“It was rough. People are devastated. I didn’t even know him and I was crushed,” Phillies starter Jake Thompson said. “I can only imagine how that clubhouse feels. That’s something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, to deal with something of that magnitude.”

Both teams paused for a moment of silence before Sunday’s game and the Mets taped a jersey bearing Fernandez’s name and number onto their dugout wall.

“This morning, that was quite a surprise,” manager Pete Mackanin said of the atmosphere of the day. “I don’t think it affected the players once the game started. It was such bad news this morning that everybody was kind of melancholy.”

Fernandez had built a strong track record against the Phillies in his young career, amassing a 2.88 ERA in six starts.

“It’s kind of cliché to say but you look at the start of his career and he could have been a Hall of Famer,” Thompson said.

Asked how he would remember facing Fernandez, Mackanin was succinct.

“He was a helluva pitcher,” he said.

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