Sandberg is critical of shortstop Rollins' play

Interim manager Ryne Sandberg issued a candid assessment of Jimmy Rollins. He called for fundamental changes to the way Rollins swings, acts and thinks. Yong Kim/Staff Photographer
Interim manager Ryne Sandberg issued a candid assessment of Jimmy Rollins. He called for fundamental changes to the way Rollins swings, acts and thinks. Yong Kim/Staff Photographer
Posted: August 21, 2013

Ryne Sandberg's schedule called for every Phillies player to arrive Monday by 3 p.m. The outfielders were prescribed extra work at 3:45 p.m., and Jimmy Rollins joined them to practice relay throws. He stretched with the team but disappeared when batting practice commenced.

He sauntered into the dugout near its conclusion, just before his hitting group, with a coffee in one hand and bat in the other. He plopped his 34-year-old body on the wooden bench.

"Is he stubborn or [has he] created habits that are hard to change?" Sandberg asked. "I've seen him practice. And what he practices, he takes into the game. I believe there is some tweaking there as far as practice habits and what he practices. Once again, that's been talked to him some. But its not an easy thing."

The interim manager has made Rollins, who went 0 for 4 in a 5-4 Phillies win over Colorado, a chief priority. Four days into his new job, Sandberg issued a candid assessment of the longest-tenured Phillies player. He called for fundamental changes to the way Rollins swings, acts, and thinks.

"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 can do," Sandberg said. "For me, that's staying on top of the ball and utilizing speed."

Rollins acknowledged a Saturday conversation with Sandberg, but said there was little talk about his performance and necessary changes.

"What I got from it was get back to being a leader again," Rollins said. "We have a lot of young guys. We need direction. That pretty much will be my role. That's what it's always been."

Rollins has a .639 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, which would be the lowest mark of his career. His .303 on-base percentage was lower (.296) only in 2009. His .336 slugging percentage is a career worst. He is batting .214 since the all-star break.

Sandberg said he wants Rollins to be "a little more aggressive" in stealing bases. He said Rollins "can work at" concentrating his swing on hard grounders and line drives. Rollins is "pull-happy" at times, Sandberg said, and he would prefer the shortstop not think about home runs.

Does he have a willing pupil?

"I'm a guy that loves to learn," Rollins said. "I'll never stop [wanting to] figure out new things. If you think you've figured out everything about the game, then the game's going to pass you by, the game's going to become stale, and you're never going to become better."

Sandberg was adamant about change. It is a message that could be mandated from the front office. The Hall of Fame second baseman is the one who must stress it as he fosters relationships with a veteran club.

"That'll be the challenge," Sandberg said. "I think that'll be the betterment for himself and the team as we go forward."

Should Sandberg earn the managerial job beyond 2013, which is expected, he could get Larry Bowa as a coach and Rollins Whisperer. Bowa was traded by the Phillies with Sandberg to Chicago in 1982 and the two men are close friends. Bowa, now an analyst for MLB Network, still lives in the Philadelphia area and was one of the first to call Sandberg with congratulations.

The former Phillies manager shares a strong relationship with Rollins. Sandberg hopes to achieve such a bond. The process began with a frank appraisal.


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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