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.”

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.