Giants

Jimmy Rollins ready for a new role, and one more shot at October

Jimmy Rollins ready for a new role, and one more shot at October

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmy Rollins was born and raised in the East Bay, but these days he lives in the Tampa area. The vast majority of the Rollins family still lives a bridge away from AT&T Park, however, and they're looking forward to possibly watching the longtime Phillies star play at home.

"My parents will be excited -- not for me, they get to see their grandkids," Rollins said. "I'm just like the sideshow."

That's rarely been a phrase used to describe Rollins, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He was an MVP in Philadelphia and spent a decade as one of the game's best shortstops, but the role now is a far different one. Rollins hopes to win a job as a backup infielder, meaning the lifelong shortstop will have to find a similar level of comfort at second and third.

“When you look at a guy with his career, one of the best shortstops of his era, he’s being honest and realistic with his situation and he’s looking forward to the challenge,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s the biggest hurdle, I think. He’s got the talent to do it.”

Rollins said the adjustment to third won't be difficult, but it will be a little weird playing second and turning his back to runners. In that respect, he has come to appreciate a new slide rule instituted in large part because of former teammate Chase Utley. 

"Knowing that I can float around, I'm looking forward to it," he said. "Things are going to be different, not necessarily from the left side but from the right."

The Giants are hoping different also means improved. They're looking at an overhaul of their bench, and Rollins is part of a crowded group of veterans playing for a backup infield job. Conor Gillaspie, Kelby Tomlinson and Orlando Calixte checked into camp Wednesday and Korean third baseman Jae-Gyun Hwang is expected to fight for time at third base. Bochy said Rollins, Tomlinson and Calixte will get time at short when Brandon Crawford goes to the World Baseball Classic, along with Eduardo Nuñez, the starter at third base. The coaches discussed the plan for backup infielders during the first staff meeting this week. 

“We have a good idea of what we could have,” Bochy said. “We’re going to stay open-minded, but we have our depth chart. As you see these games played, you’re going to be able to figure it out.”

Some in the group bring power, some bring speed. At his peak, Rollins provided both. But last year, he hit just .221 in 41 games for the White Sox. The year before it was .224 as an everyday shortstop for the Dodgers.

Rollins took a break after the White Sox released him on June 15. He played golf and took his kids to school and enjoyed his first Fourth of July in more than 20 years. He checked another box off the post-playing-days checklist by doing TV work, but Rollins said he never prepared to retire.

"No, no, I've been told to make them take the uniform off your back," he said. "I didn't wear it for long last year, but they didn't take it off my back yet."

Rollins told his agent to see what was out there. For the second straight offseason, the Giants offered a spring invite and a chance to win a backup job. He wasn't ready to embrace the role after the 2015 season, but a year later -- and a month after his 38th birthday -- Rollins signed with the Giants. 

The proximity to home was one draw, but Rollins, who watched a potential Phillies dynasty turn into a rebuild, said playing for a winner was just as important. The Giants knocked his Phillies out of the NLCS in 2010. Seven years later, their goal remains the same.

“That’s what motivates me to come play, knowing every time you get out there on that field you’re getting a step closer to the playoffs and to get to that point to win a championship,” Rollins said. “This is a team that has proven that during their run this decade. I’ve been a victim to it. They’re geared up to win right now, all the time, and that was very important.”

Giancarlo Stanton to Giants? Upside vs downside from Marlins perspective

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USATI

Giancarlo Stanton to Giants? Upside vs downside from Marlins perspective

Because we are too cool to allow the games to sustain us and because we all think the purpose of sports is actually not to be the best player but the general manager, the new item on the baseball menu is not the pennant races but “Where should Giancarlo Stanton go?”

The usual suspects are listed – the Yankees, the Giants, the Chunichi Dragons, Real Madrid – and the $295 million still on his contract is not considered an impediment.

But the logic behind the Marlins keeping him is just as clear and more pressing. Namely, Bruce Sherman, the incoming owner, and Derek Jeter, the designated face, did not buy this team and promptly try to make themselves detested by the few people who still care about it.

So far, we know that the monstrous thing in center field (no, not Christian Yelich) is likely to be torn down, and that Stanton is don’t-go-to-the-bathroom-during-his-half-inning entertainment. Beyond that, we know only that the Marlins draw when they win a lot and barely at all the rest of the time. They are clearly a distant third in a four-team race with the Dolphins and Heat for people’s hearts, and now that hating Jeffrey Loria’s living guts are off the table for the fans, there really is no there, there.

So what’s the up-side of moving Stanton (and before we go any further, the Giants don’t have nearly enough assets to make that work, so calm the hell down) for the Marlins? Prospects, the dark hole that makes a three-year plan a six-year plan.

And the down-side? Sherman may as well move the team for the level of fun he’ll get from it, and the only reason to buy a team looking at a $60 million loss is for the fun. Besides, onlky a very few owners have ever made the full turn from villain to hero – the first impression almost always lasts forever.

So while Stanton may create immediate wallet relief for this aggressively average team (their current record of 57-61 is the 12th best in their 25-year history, and they’ve only had eight winning seasons ever), they also have nothing to sell the fans that they have to live with every day. And if they don’t have enough fans . . . well, I hear San Jose is always hot for a mediocre franchise that lurches between spending money and hoarding it.

 

Giants lineup: Posey out, Sandoval hitting cleanup vs Marlins

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AP

Giants lineup: Posey out, Sandoval hitting cleanup vs Marlins

Bruce Bochy and Don Mattingly issued their lineups for today's series finale in Miami:

Giants (48-73) 
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Hunter Pence (R) RF
3. Jarrett Parker (L) LF
4. Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Nick Hundley (R) C
7. Ryder Jones (L) 1B
8. Kelby Tomlinson (R) 2B
9. Matt Cain (R) P (3-9, 5.22 ERA)

Marlins (57-61) 
1. Dee Gordon (L) 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton (R) RF
3. Christian Yelich (L) CF
4. Marcell Ozuna (R) LF
5. J.T. Realmuto (R) C
6. Derek Dietrich (L) 3B
7. Tomas Telis (S) 1B
8. Mike Aviles (R) SS
9. Jose Urena (R) P (10-5, 3.76 ERA)