PEORIA, Ariz. — Two years ago, Jimmy Rollins spent a season playing shortstop behind Clayton Kershaw. On Tuesday, he lined up behind Madison Bumgarner.
Rollins is one of the few big leaguers who has shared a clubhouse with the two left-handed aces, so during a recent interview, I asked him to compare Kershaw and Bumgarner. One trait stood out.
“When it’s game day, (Kershaw) is all on,” Rollins said. “It’s intense, it’s his job, it’s his game, it’s his mound — almost a ‘Don’t get a reliever up’ type of mentality. Playing against MadBum, it was the same thing. When he took the mound he expected himself to go nine. ‘I’m not turning the ball over,’ and when he did, it’s like, ‘Alright, I get it.’ Not willingly, but more reluctantly.”
Rollins was the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers in 2015. Two years later, he’s trying to secure a much different role. Rollins, 38, is in the mix to win a utility infielder job, and he’s off to a decent start. He has had good at-bats over the first week and on Tuesday he showed the arm is still there on a relay throw from center. The Giants will move him around quite a bit this spring, with second base likely to be the biggest challenge for a player who has spent most his life standing at shortstop. Manager Bruce Bochy said Rollins will start at second on Thursday.
Rollins hopes he has many more days behind Bumgarner. He certainly has had more than enough time against him. Rollins is 7-for-32 against Bumgarner, with no extra-base hits or walks, and 10 strikeouts.
“I swung at a two-strike pitch that Madison threw in L.A. and I was like, you know what, I’m going to take a shot at a fastball,” Rollins said. “He threw a curveball and the ball bounced two feet in front of the plate and I’m just swinging like I’m trying to hit a home run. He stuck me out. ‘Alright, well. I gave it a shot and that didn’t work out. Don’t ever do that again.’ Sometimes you have those matchups that you can’t figure a guy and he was that for me.
“He has a lot of deception with his move, stepping over, sideways-slinging, but he has good control. He can backdoor a curveball when he wants to. He can cross-fire and bag you up.”
Rollins talked much more about facing the Giants and Bumgarner during the interview, which aired on my podcast today. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.
GAME RECAP: Bumgarner had a seven-pitch first inning but gave up two runs in the second. He got his work in, as they say … Mark Melancon made his second appearance of the spring. It’s six up, six down so far … Josh Osich had another wild outing, walking two and giving up an RBI single … Chris Marrero, who hit a walk-off in the opener, scorched a two-run single off the wall in dead center. He was held to just a single because he tripped rounding first. Still, another good display of his power.
PROSPECT WATCH: Ray Black, the 100 mph man, walked one and struck out one in his debut. He sat 95-96 mph with a good slider. "It's good to see him healthy," Bochy said. "He's made some good adjustments. He's feeling good. Knock on wood, he stays healthy. That's a big arm. You'd like to see him healthy all year and let him take the next step."
FAMILIAR FACE: Hector Sanchez pinch-hit for the Padres in the seventh and drew a walk. Sanchez remains El Iman, The Magnet. He has already missed time this spring because of two separate foul tips. For more on former Giants, here’s a look at all the familiar names in other camps as non-roster invitees.
STOCK RISING: It can’t hurt Gordon Beckham’s cause that he did a decent job in a surprise start in left field. Beckham caught two liners but got turned around by a ball to the track in the second inning. He’s trying to make this team as a utility infielder/outstanding clubhouse guy, and Bochy said he'll mix him in as a left fielder.
“He’s a good guy to have on the team,” Bumgarner said, before joking: “A talented player, too … except for today when he couldn’t throw the ball home or catch the ball.”
TRAINER’S ROOM: Will Smith played catch for the second straight day. It looked like a normal game of catch, which is good.
QUOTABLE: "He came in and said, 'Wow, I got a 1-2-3 inning in spring training. I think that's the first 1-2-3 inning I've had in five years here.'" -- Bochy on what Bumgarner said to him after a quick first.