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The Rollins Drama

Rollins: We'll Win 100 GamesIs this just the beginning of the Jimmy Rollins drama?

ESPN’s Buster Olney had a very interesting tweet and story today about Rollins, who was benched three consecutive games last week because Ryne Sandberg had a problem with him:

Olney then noted, “Jimmy Rollins, of course, cannot be traded without his consent, because he has 10-5 rights.”

Yes, there are folks who have grown tired of Rollins. But then the Phillies also signed him to a three-year, $33 million extension following the 2011 season, despite no evidence any other team in baseball offered him more than a one-year deal. Rollins’ deal includes an easily attainable club option for 2015, which essentially makes this a four-year, $44 million contract. The Phillies handed him this contract, despite knowing his shortcomings, knowing they had Freddy Galvis waiting in the wings and knowing Rollins’ production had declined the previous three seasons. His .720 OPS from 2009-11 ranked 144th out of 181 qualifying players, and 14th out of 25 qualifying shortstops.

They committed big money to him anyway.

Two important things to remember here:

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Phils Acquire Hill for Minor League Depth

The Phillies acquired catcher Koyie Hill from the Nationals today in exchange for cash or a player to be named later.

He will report to Minor League camp, where he is expected to be a backup at the upper levels. Cameron Rupp is expected to receive regular playing time this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, while Tommy Joseph is expected to see the same with Double-A Reading. Wil Nieves will be Carlos Ruiz’s backup in the big leagues.

The Phillies recently released Lou Marson, who came to camp as a non-roster invitee on a Minor League deal. Hill provides the Phillies some veteran depth.

Hill, selected by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, has played 331 games in the Majors over 10 seasons with four teams: the Dodgers, D-Backs, Marlins and Cubs. He signed as a free agent with the Nationals early last month.

The veteran catcher has hit .206 (192-for-930) in his career.

Big Week for Hamels

Ryne Sandberg, A.J. Burnett, Cole HamelsCheck back later this week, but Cole Hamels brimmed with confidence following today’s bullpen session at Citizens Bank Park.

He threw 27 pitches at about 70 percent as he recovers from a left shoulder issue that put him several weeks behind schedule. Hamels said he hopes to throw again Wednesday, then hopefully face hitters after that.

“I was really thoroughly impressed with the way I’ve been feeling all week,” he said. “The past couple days with recovering and still being able to maintain the exercises and the strength program without any hiccups or even having to take it back a notch, I’ve really been able to bounce back really well.”

Keep in mind Hamels seemed to be progressing nicely earlier this month before he suffered a setback. His arm felt fatigued as a result of pushing too hard too fast and being unable to build strength as he would during a typical offseason.

He indicated this time is different.

“Ultimately, my strength is now there,” he said. “I can throw at the distance I know I’m capable of throwing. I could probably throw more. Having that and throwing with the right type of intensity, then it leads right into the mound.

“The plan is to go Wednesday. A pen. And then, from there, get right into batting practice. So, I’m really looking forward to this week. This is going to be a big week, with some big stepping stones. I know with everything we’ve been able to do, the way I’ve been able to recover and gain the strength necessary to do it, I’m really pleased.”

Rollins Comments on Ryno’s No Comment

Jimmy RollinsJimmy Rollins spoke to reporters this morning following Ryne Sandberg’s interesting “no comment” yesterday, when asked about the positivity and energy he has brought this spring. Rollins has not played since Monday. He was in Tuesday’s lineup, but was scratched that morning. He did not play yesterday and he is not in the lineup today.

Rollins is healthy.

Here is some of what he said this morning:

Q: Why do you think you’re not in the lineup today? It’s unusual for a starter.
A: Yeah, I don’t know. You’ll have to go ask the manager. I don’t write the lineup.

Q: Do you think it’s unusual, though?
A: Oh, it is unusual. Yes, but I’m not going to try to second guess or predict or come up with a reason why.

Q: So yesterday Sandberg is asked about Freddy Galvis. He says he loves his positivity and energy. The next question is how has Jimmy been in that regard this spring? He gives a no comment. What do you make of that? Does that bother you?
A: Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion. It doesn’t make it right, but he’s the manager so he gets to have the last say.

Q: What’s your relationship with Ryne so far?
A: It’s good. We talk. Except for the last two days we talk every day. We talk about baseball behind the cage when we’re doing our hitting drills. I let people challenge me throughout situations and have fun. No one has a problem with that.

Q: When would you want to talk with Ryno about this?
A: Whenever he comes to me.

Q: Do you think there’s a method to this? Do you think he’s trying to light a fire under you or something?
A: I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s no fire that needs to be lit, though. Never has been, especially when things count.

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Rollins Sits, Galvis Positively Plays

Jimmy RollinsRyne Sandberg has been singing Freddy Galvis’ praises since the offseason, when he essentially guaranteed he would make the team as a utility infielder.

Galvis went 1-for-2 with a triple, walk and RBI in today’s 6-5 victory over the Orioles in a Grapefruit League game at Ed Smith Stadium. Galvis has started at shortstop the past two Grapefruit League games, and is scheduled to start there a third consecutive game tomorrow against the Yankees at Bright House Field. Asked before the game about Rollins’ string of absences, Ruben Amaro Jr. said he is unaware of any health issues.

So is everything OK with Rollins or is he just getting a break?

“No, he’s fine,” Sandberg said.

Asked if Galvis could push Rollins for playing time this season, Sandberg said, “Freddy’s a guy that will get playing time at various positions. He’s a guy that I like in the lineup. I feel good about what he brings to the table. The biggest thing I like is his energy and his positive influence. His positive influence on everybody that’s around him.”

And what he has thought about Rollins in that regard this spring?

“No comment,” Sandberg said.

Sore Shoulders Everywhere: Gonzalez Latest

Alfredo Miguel GonzalezAnother week, another sore shoulder for a Phillies pitcher.

Right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez did not pitch as scheduled today in a Grapefruit League game against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium because he has a sore right shoulder. The Phillies said he first experienced the soreness while throwing yesterday.

Gonzalez already has seen a doctor, and will see a doctor again tomorrow.

“We’re always concerned about guys who are sore,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “But that’s all it is right now. He is day-to-day. … He experienced some soreness in the front of his shoulder. We don’t think it’s anything alarming. He was feeling better today.”

The Phillies are short on starting pitching depth, but it was highly unlikely Gonzalez would have opened the season in the big leagues anyway. He has not looked close to ready after signing a $12 million contract last summer. He allowed four hits, four runs and two walks in one inning Friday against the Orioles, which was the last time he pitched.

The Phillies originally agreed to a $48 million deal in July with Gonzalez, but the deal dropped $36 million following issues with his physical exam. The Phillies have said Gonzalez has been healthy since camp opened, although Amaro said Gonzalez battled arm tightness last month.

Gonzalez joins a list of Phillies pitchers with shoulder issues: Cole Hamels, Mike Adams, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin.

Hamels Starting From Scratch Again

Cole HamelsCole Hamels is starting from the beginning again.

He threw a 20-pitch bullpen session this morning at Bright House Field. It is the first time he has thrown from a mound since March 1, when he suffered a setback following his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder. Hamels and Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure said today’s session went well, but based on the time Hamels has missed this spring both acknowledged he essentially is starting his regular-season preparation from scratch.

“The day before Spring Training, when you get down here,” Hamels said, when asked when he might throw a 20-pitch bullpen session during a typical spring.

“I would say he’s a little bit ahead of scratch,” McClure said. “He may have another bullpen session and then get into a BP or so and feel like he could pitch in a game. It could go faster or it could be like from scratch. I can’t tell you that right now. It’s going to depend on where he’s at. Whenever we decide to do his next pen, he might feel real good in that one and go right into BP.”

Hamels is scheduled to throw his next bullpen session Friday or Saturday, but that depends how he feels Thursday.

If Hamels progresses from this point like everybody in Phillies camp hopes, McClure said there is a chance Hamels could pitch in a Grapefruit League game this month.

Pitching in a big-league game in April is remote, although McClure did not completely rule out the possibility.

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Stutes Outrighted from 40-Man

Michael StutesThe Phillies have a host of non-roster invitees that have a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

The list includes outfielder Bobby Abreu and right-handers Shawn Camp, Jeff Manship and David Buchanan.

Those possibilities and others are why the Phillies announced today they have outrighted right-hander Michael Stutes from the 40-man roster. More moves like this could be coming before Opening Day on March 31 in Texas.

The move gives the Phillies 39 players on the 40-man.

Stutes, who cleared waivers, is in Minor League camp. He has battled shoulder injuries the past two seasons. His fastball averaged 93 mph in 2011, but hit just 88-89 mph this spring.

“It was based on what we’ve seen this spring and the last couple of months last season,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “And we have guys in camp that we’re looking at for the rotation, the bullpen and the bench. This just opens up a spot for us.”

Of course, the Phillies also could add from outside the organization, but at this time a player already in camp being moved onto the 40-man roster is more likely.

Sandberg Not Concerned with Woeful Offense

Ryne SandbergThe Phillies entered this afternoon’s Grapefruit League game against the Braves with a .595 OPS, which was the worst mark in baseball.

Then they scored just one run and picked up just six hits in today’s 8-1 loss.

“It’s March 10,” Ryne Sandberg said afterward. “It’s also a Spring Training atmosphere. Some guys are two at-bats, three at-bats and out. Sprinkled with days off in there, kind of a choppy schedule for guys. We’re still seeing everybody, giving everybody ample at-bats. Maybe it’s hard for guys to get into a groove and get into a rhythm. Guys are seeing the ball, getting their eyes adjusted. That could come into play. But when I look at the potential of the lineup and the potential bats we have together, I see an offense that has potential of doing some things. I put a lot on it being March 10.”

Hamels Suffers Setback

Ryne Sandberg, A.J. Burnett, Cole HamelsThis is not good news.

Cole Hamels suffered a setback in his recovery from inflammation in his left shoulder, which makes his chances of pitching in April seem remote. He said he feels no pain in his shoulder, but his arm is “fatigued out.” He said no MRI or cortisone injections are scheduled, and he hopes to throw off a mound again sometime within the next week.

“I know nothing has gone wrong,” Hamels said this morning about his shoulder. “Trying to get in the best possible shape that I can in sort of a rushed, competitive atmosphere, something’s going to not want to push it a little more so it prevents the injury. Ultimately my body is telling me, ‘Hey, slow it down a little bit and start over in a certain way so that you can prevent injury but build up for the long haul.’”

That is the hope in Phillies camp: Hamels simply pushed himself too hard, too fast.

“I think any time you use and abuse your arm you’re going to get inflammation,” Hamels said. “But no, I wouldn’t say it’s painful. I think ultimately when people think about the shoulder and not being able to throw a baseball, they think injuries, tears, the pain indication. It’s not that. It’s really tired and it was kind of more difficult to go through the throwing motion, let alone try to throw something very competitive.”

But players almost always offer rosy outlooks about their health – in recent seasons Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Brad Lidge all publicly stated they were healthy in Spring Training only to struggle with their health during the season – so the fact Hamels seemed to be progressing quite nicely and suddenly has to stop throwing is a concern.

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