Coincidence or not, Rollins struggles with Howard out

Posted: May 24, 2007

MIAMI - It's about his angle in the batter's box relative to the field. It's about keeping his shoulders level.

Jimmy Rollins has learned this much from his past slumps:

"I know what I'm doing, and I know how to get out of it."

Rollins, who once led the National League with nine home runs, is 7-for-47 in his last 12 games, including a single in his final at-bat last night. The Phillies shortstop hadn't homered since April 27. He is hitting .265 after sitting at .301 before the slide.

The slump coincides with the exit of MVP slugger Ryan Howard, who landed on the 15-day disabled list with left leg injuries.

"When one of your key players goes down, everybody tries to do more," hitting coach Milt Thompson said.

"I think he might be trying to do more than usual," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That might be the case."

Rollins insists that he hasn't changed a thing and isn't pressing, and that Howard's absence - and Rollins' subsequent move from leadoff to the third spot over the previous eight games - haven't hurt him.

He acknowledges, however, that the last time he felt decent in the box was the last day Howard played.

"I'm definitely off," Rollins said. "I'll have one or two good at-bats, then I'll lose the angle."

Thompson, Manuel and Rollins pointed out that Rollins has hit into a bit of bad luck.

"It'd be nice if something would fall in and hit the ground for a change," Rollins said, "but, then again, if I hit those balls off the barrel, they go out, or over guys' heads, or into the gap."

Rollins arrived at the ballpark early yesterday to work with Thompson on adjusting his angle to the field and to get his hands through the swing zone quicker. For now, he's being patient.

"It might take a game. It might take one swing," he said.

It might take tomorrow to find out.

Dontrelle Willis starts today, and Rollins is 12-for-55 against him.

First timer

After 44 games, rookie reserve Michael Bourn was wondering whether his turn in the starting lineup would ever come.

After 44 games, rookie reserve Michael Bourn was wondering whether his turn in the starting lineup would ever come.

"It was on my mind, man," Bourn said of the possibility of having no starts. "Man, it was getting close."

After the 45th game, the Phils' loss on Tuesday night, Manuel called him into his office and told him he would start against Marlins righthanded side-arm pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim.

Bourn, a lefthanded hitter, led off last night and played leftfield in place of righthanded hitter Pat Burrell, who was 1-for-11 against Kim.

"This is a good guy to play him against," Manuel said.

Bourn walked twice, stole a base and scored a run before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth.

Bourn had earned it.

He was hitting .250, often against other teams' top pitchers, since his 20 at-bats usually came late in close games as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for Burrell.

There is an argument that the Phillies and Bourn, their top prospect, would be served better with him at Triple A Ottawa. He spent most of last season at Double A before a July 4 promotion, and hasn't gotten any seasoning against crafty Triple A veterans.

Manuel allowed that Bourn might be better off in the long run if he were in the minors, but, since Bourn is 24 and not 21, he might be able to glean plenty as a reserve.

For Bourn, who would be playing in Canada, the choice was obvious:

"It's too cold down there."

Phillers

Make no mistake: The Phillies despise Marlins lefty Scott Olsen, whose antics Tuesday - throwing a ball over Chase Utley's head in the third and taunting Utley as Utley walked to first base in the sixth - made them dislike him even more. One Phillie said he screamed himself hoarse from the dugout, riding Olsen. *

Make no mistake: The Phillies despise Marlins lefty Scott Olsen, whose antics Tuesday - throwing a ball over Chase Utley's head in the third and taunting Utley as Utley walked to first base in the sixth - made them dislike him even more. One Phillie said he screamed himself hoarse from the dugout, riding Olsen. *

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