Rollins hopes to power Phils back to winning ways
After down year, shortstop says it's easier to lock in with something to play for
PHILADELPHIA -- Did it sting?
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins pondered the question for a moment as he cleared out his locker at Turner Field on Sept. 29. The Phillies had just played their final game of 2013, their first losing season since 2002, and had missed the postseason for the second consecutive year.
"If it was a game that depended on this day? Yeah, then this definitely would sting," said Rollins, whose team had been out of contention since a 5-21 slide following the All-Star break. "But we've had plenty of time to go ahead and understand this was going to be just another day on the schedule."
The Phillies will try to fill numerous holes this offseason in the rotation, bullpen, catcher position, outfield and on the bench. But even if they fill those voids, they still need their returning players to show improvement.
Rollins is near the top of that list. He hit .252 with 36 doubles, two triples, six home runs, 39 RBIs, 65 runs scored, 22 stolen bases and a career-low .667 on-base-plus-slugging percentage this season. He ranked 12th out of 17 qualifying shortstops in OPS and 131st out of 140 qualifying players.
It could have been worse, but Rollins hit .329 with eight doubles, one home run and an .875 OPS in his final 18 games.
"The power numbers were down," Rollins said. "That was kind of weird. Some of the things depend on the season. When the season is going well, stealing bases goes along with that, because you have opportunities to steal, reasons to steal, just being in the right situation to steal. I'm not worried about that at all. Really, I'm not worried about anything at all, truth be told."
Rollins had never hit fewer than eight homers in a season before, and he had averaged 19.1 homers per season over the previous seven years.
"Just a crazy year," he said.
Last month, new Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa offered his take on Rollins' drop in productivity.
"You have to keep the volume up," he said. "Sometimes he likes to lower the volume."
Plenty of people in the organization have called Rollins a "red-light" player, somebody whose focus crystallizes as games become more important.
The 2013 Phillies played out the string for months.
"I think anybody wants to play for something," Rollins said. "Not that you're not playing for anything, but when it's out there and it's attainable, you play better. You lock in, you turn on and you stay on. You have times where you feel like the energy is gone, the excitement is gone. You have some games you get excited for, but when you're doing well, you get excited every day."
Certainly Rollins can help the team's performance with his own play, but can he bounce back? Can he be a guy that scores 100 runs, hits 15-20 home runs and steals 40 bases again? The Phillies hope so. They will pay him $11 million next season, and Rollins has an $11 million club option for 2015 that automatically vests if he reaches 1,100 plate appearances in 2013-14.
That should be a cinch. He had 666 plate appearances this season, which means he needs only 434 next year. Other than 2010, when he spent much of the season on the disabled list, Rollins has never had fewer than 625 plate appearances since he became an everyday player in 2001.
And forget about trading Rollins. He said in July that he would not waive his no-trade clause as he pursues franchise records.
"Those things depend on the season," Rollins said of his offensive numbers. "Situations set up stolen bases. Some guys are fast enough where they can steal. I've never been a guy that just steals. I've never done it. I probably can and get away with it, but it doesn't make sense. Runs, I can only do so much about that. It helps when you hit home runs, because you drive yourself in."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.