Phillies Notebook: Jimmy Rollins takes 2-hole in stride

ASSOCIATED PRESS Ben Revere loses his helmet sliding back into second base and colliding with Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Ben Revere loses his helmet sliding back into second base and colliding with Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons.
Posted: April 03, 2013

ATLANTA - Most of his Phillies teammates had exited through the rear door in the visiting clubhouse at Turner Field for pregame stretching and batting practice when Jimmy Rollins grabbed his last belongings and headed that way, too.

The starting lineup was posted on the door.

"I hadn't even looked," Rollins said to a small group of reporters as he walked out. "I haven't made it past my locker."

Even though Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were in the middle of the lineup, unlike last year on Opening Day, Rollins' name was not at the top of the batting order. Rollins hit second while speedy centerfielder Ben Revere was penciled into the leadoff spot.

"You guys are making something out of nothing," Rollins said when asked if he cared where he hit in the lineup. "We've talked about this before."

When he reported to spring training 2 months ago, Rollins said he didn't care as much anymore about being the leadoff hitter, a spot he cherished while coming up and into his prime. A Bay Area native, Rollins grew up idolizing Rickey Henderson, arguably the greatest leadoff hitter ever.

But Rollins, 34, used the word "whatever" when asked about it during spring training while saying that Revere was "definitely a leadoff hitter." And so despite having a former MVP who has started 1,374 of his 1,792 career games in the leadoff spot, manager Charlie Manuel opted for the 24-year-old Revere over Rollins on Day 1 of the 2013 season.

"I decided to put Ben there and try it for a while," said Manuel, who had been using Revere in the top spot routinely during the last week of exhibition games. "We'll see how long I give it. I come to the ballpark to win. I don't have to put a time on it or nothing. I can't tell you if it's going to be 5 days, 10 days, 2 days - we'll see. I just felt like that's what I wanted to see. That's how I wanted to put it together."

Manuel is likely to use the same Revere-Rollins look in the season's second game on Wednesday night, when the Phils face Atlanta lefthander Paul Maholm. If the top two spots were reversed, Manuel would have three consecutive lefties in the second, third and fourth spots in the order.

Rollins, a switch-hitter, provides more balance in the top half of the order by hitting second.

"I look at Jimmy against righties, he hooks the hole good," Manuel said of starting Rollins second against righthander Tim Hudson. "If Ben gets on, Jimmy is definitely capable of hitting balls to the right side of the diamond, getting him over, things like that. Ben's more of a spray hitter. He hits more to the left side of the diamond than Jimmy. There's a lot of things that go into play there."

Manuel takes a lot of care and pride in putting together his lineup, as it is one of the important things that is solely his responsibility. Because of that, he's likely to continue to experiment throughout the season.

In another month, Manuel will have two more pieces - suspended catcher Carlos Ruiz and injured outfielder Delmon Young - which will only lead to more possible lineup combinations.

Michael Young, for example, started in the fifth spot on Monday because he's the most obvious righthanded hitter to use behind Utley and Howard. When Ruiz and Delmon Young return, they both could be candidates to hit fifth, with Michael Young possibly be moved up higher in the order.

But after watching Revere play for the first time under his watch this spring, Manuel likes having his fastest player at the top of the lineup.

"He's stronger than I thought he was," Manuel said of Revere. "He takes a more aggressive hack than I thought he would. He puts the fat part of the bat on the ball good."

Ender excited

Everyone else who needed to meet with the manager and general manager had done so late Saturday morning when Ender Inciarte was called in to talk to Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr.

"I was worried a little bit," Inciarte said. "But I figured whatever happens, happens. I had a great experience and I hoped I would get good news. And I got great news."

Inciarte, the 22-year-old outfielder the Phils selected in the Rule 5 Draft in December, had earned a spot on the Opening Day roster when the front office finalized its decisions on Saturday.

Inciarte has never played above Class A and it's unclear if he fits into the Phillies' long-term plans, although it's probably unlikely he sticks on the major league roster for the duration of the 2013 season. The front office would like to add a veteran outfield bat and Manuel said midway through spring training that it probably wouldn't help Inciarte's development to sit on a big-league bench and not play.

As a Rule 5 pick, Inciarte can't be sent to the minor leagues unless he's offered back to his original team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The teams could also work out a trade.

No matter what his future holds, Inciarte was thrilled to make the jump from Class A Visalia to the major leagues.

"Now that I'm here," Inciarte said, "it's like a dream come true."

Hometown Brown

Domonic Brown had played in 147 major league games, so taking the field Monday night at Turner Field for the 2013 opener might not seem special on the surface.

But Brown, 25, is coming off a monster spring and had never been on a big-league roster for Opening Day. The fact that it took place 17 miles from his high school made it even more meaningful.

"It means the world - I'm basically at home," Brown said.

Brown only left "eight to 10 tickets" for family and friends Monday but expects more to arrive throughout the week at Atlanta, including former coaches at Redan High in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Brown, who hit .356 with a 1.047 OPS and seven home runs this spring, started in leftfield on Monday. Brown can play both corner outfield positions but will likely spend most of his time in left if Delmon Young returns from the disabled list in the next month.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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