Closing the book on possible Rollins trade?

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jimmy Rollins signs autographs before the Phillies played the Blue Jays yesterday in Dunedin, Fla.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jimmy Rollins signs autographs before the Phillies played the Blue Jays yesterday in Dunedin, Fla.
Posted: March 21, 2014

DUNEDIN, Fla. - The first week of the Jimmy Rollins Spring Training Saga began with the shortstop belittling the importance of exhibition play results, finding himself on the bench for 3 days, and then coming to terms with manager Ryne Sandberg amid the abrupt benching.

The second week of the Jimmy Rollins Spring Training Saga began Tuesday, when ESPN's Buster Olney reported that there were "strong sentiments within the [Phillies] organization" that the team would be better off trading the shortstop. Olney credited "sources" in the story.

When Ruben Amaro Jr. had the opportunity to respond to Olney and those sources yesterday, when the Phillies returned from a rare day off in their spring schedule, he swiftly refuted the report.

"All of that is silliness and an unnecessary distraction," Amaro said in Dunedin, where Rollins hit second in the Phillies lineup against the Toronto Blue Jays. "Jimmy is our shortstop."

The story is a bit silly, when you consider two more facts:

Rollins, as a player with 10 years of major league experience and at least the last 5 years with the same team, has a complete no-trade clause. Rollins has repeatedly, on multiple occasions from the summer to the spring, said he had zero intention of waiving his no-trade clause.

Rollins, 35, has spent his entire, 14-year big-league career with the Phillies. He has been in the organization for more than half of his life: Rollins was 17 when the Phillies chose him in the second round of the 1996 draft.

Rollins is deeply rooted in the community; he helped build a veterinary rehab clinic through his charity last spring. His wife, Johari, is from the area and the couple is raising a family in South Jersey.

Additionally, Rollins is approaching several team records that he would like to own. He enters the 2014 season, for example, with 2,175 career hits, 60 hits shy of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt's franchise record.

The only possible scenario where the Phillies might entertain the possibility of trading Rollins likely wouldn't come until midseason, if and when he reaches that record and the team is well out of contention.

Rollins declined to talk after coming out of yesterday's game in Dunedin. But he was smiling when the media approached him and seemed completely unbothered by the latest chapter in his spring training story.

Rollins said he stood by his comments earlier in the week. Prior to Olney's story, Rollins spoke to about the possibility of waiving his no-trade since the Detroit Tigers were possibly looking for a shortstop after losing Jose Iglesias to injury.

"If we're in absolutely last place with nowhere to go and change is obviously on the horizon, then at that point I'd think about it," Rollins told "But anything short of a complete disaster, I'm wearing red and white pinstripes."

Rollins went 1-for-4 in yesterday's game against Toronto. Rollins' two-out single in the seventh inning was his first hit since March 1, snapping an 0-for-22 slump.

Rollins is hitting .115 (3-for-26) in 10 games this spring.

After the game, an 11-6 loss to the Blue Jays, Sandberg was asked about the latest Rollins story, and whether it could be a distraction to his team this spring and this season.

"No, there's no distraction there," Sandberg said. "That's a non-issue. That's a non-issue."

Sandberg then quickly segued into the positivity he saw in his team, despite the defeat. Although starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez was hit around (seven runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings), Sandberg was encouraged with the performance of an offense that has been largely dormant this spring. The Phillies banged out 10 hits and scored six or more runs for just the fifth time in 18 games this spring.

"I see guys coming along with their at-bats," Sandberg said. "[Ryan Howard] is coming along. [Cody] Asche hit a ball today, had some better at-bats. I see some guys coming around. That's what we're going to need in these last games, for each guy to come around and find their stroke."

Asche's second home run of the spring was a monstrous shot to dead center; he is 5-for-18 (.278) with three extra-base hits since beginning his spring hitless in 13 at-bats. Howard went 2-for-3, with singles in consecutive at-bats against lefthander J.A. Happ.

Still, the Phillies ranked last in baseball in five major categories following their 18th game of the exhibition season: hits (137), runs (73), batting average (.215), OPS (.627) and OBP (.299).

Nine days earlier, Rollins told the Daily News, "Who cares?" when a similar sample of spring stats was presented to him. Rollins had a point, of course, as the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox were each in the bottom third of major league teams in runs scored last spring and went on to have fruitful seasons.

But with the Phillies coming off an 89-loss season that featured a struggling offense, and many of those same names in the lineup again this season, it's worth wondering if the Phillies should be somewhat concerned with spring results. Sandberg, for one, remains hopeful.

"I just look at the potential on paper, what it looks like, righthanded bats, lefthanded bats, some speed in there," Sandberg said. "Just to have everyone work on their at-bats, get better, chip in. I can see the potential of a lineup where it doesn't have to be one guy, it can be different guys each day. We haven't clicked together as a group, but I still look at the potential that's there and I lean on that. I feel good about that."

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21


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