Manuel sends Rollins a clear message with benching

Posted: August 31, 2012

This should have been a nice story about how Kyle Kendrick's resurgence continued with a fourth straight outstanding start.

This could have been a happy account of Kevin Frandsen's continued success as the Phillies' fill-in third baseman.

Instead, the Phillies' 3-2 victory that allowed them to salvage the final game of their series with the New York Mets will most be remembered for the benching of shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

It was, in fact, the subject that dominated manager Charlie Manuel's postgame news conference.

Exactly two weeks after Manuel met with Rollins in Milwaukee about his failure to run out a ground ball the night before in a game in Miami, the manager watched his shortstop break the same team rule again Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

After Rollins hit a sixth-inning pop-up in front of home plate, he started to veer off toward the dugout halfway up the first-base line. The ball was dropped by Mets pitcher Jonathan Niese and only then did Rollins start running. He rounded first base but had to return to the bag because of his initial lack of hustle.

Rollins stole second base, but he immediately made another baserunning blunder. With pitcher Kyle Kendrick at third base and one out, the Mets pulled their infield in because they did not want to give up another run when they were already down one. Frandsen hit a grounder to second baseman Daniel Murphy and Rollins broke toward third with Kendrick still standing on the bag. Rollins, after being caught in a rundown, was eventually tagged out.

Television cameras followed Rollins into the home dugout, where he was immediately met by Manuel. When the Phillies went out for the top of the seventh inning, Michael Martinez moved from right field to shortstop and Laynce Nix assumed the leadoff spot in the order.

"I asked him if he thought he ran to first base," Manuel said. "He gave me an answer like, 'No, not at the end' or something like that. That's all that was said."

Manuel's action spoke much louder.

Rollins, on the other hand, barely spoke at all.

Manuel "already told you what happened – there you go," the shortstop said as he exited the clubhouse.

Ryan Howard had his own take on Rollins' actions. "You want guys to be able to go out and hustle," Howard said. "He knows better. He knows better. It's simple, be on time, hustle. That's it. That's two things that you can control. Go out there and do it. Charlie took care of it."

It was the second pop-up of the day for Rollins with runners in scoring position. He has hit pop-ups in 21 percent of his at-bats this season, according to BaseballReference.com. That is by far the worst percentage of his career.

The manager had reprimanded Rollins three other times in the past for breaking team rules, including twice in 2008, the year the Phillies won the World Series. That year, Rollins was benched for being late and for a lack of hustle. The fact that the latest incident happened just two weeks after Manuel talked to Rollins is baffling.

"It happened," Manuel said. "I've got two rules: be on time and hustle. Running balls out is definitely part of it."

Manuel said he did not know if the discipline would continue Friday night when the Phillies open a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves.

"That's between Jimmy and I," Manuel said.

Perhaps the worst thing Rollins did Thursday afternoon was take the spotlight off another outstanding start by Kendrick.

After giving up solo home runs to Mike Baxter in the first inning and Scott Hairston in the second, Kendrick retired 20 of the final 24 batters he faced before giving up consecutive two-out singles in the top of the eighth.

Raul Valdes and Jonathan Papelbon combined to get the final four outs and the Phillies won for just the second time in nine home games against the Mets this season.

Kendrick improved to 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last four starts. He has walked just three batters and struck out 22 in 291/3 innings during that stretch and it appears as if he is earning a job in the starting rotation for next season.

"You never know," Kendrick said. "Anything can happen. I'm just trying to go about my business and get my work in. You got to keep getting outs and pitching deep into the game. If I keep doing that, I'll be starting."


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover @ bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

 

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