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.”

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner aims to get all 27 outs every time he takes the mound, but on Tuesday the coaching staff gave the ace a nice view of the man who will help out if his nights are cut short. 

Bumgarner threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on the main field at Scottsdale Stadium. Mark Melancon, the new closer, followed him. Both players said they felt good. Both also found things to work on in advance of opening day. 

“Strength-wise I felt pretty good, really good, actually,” Bumgarner said. “My command up in the zone was right where I want it. I’m pretty happy with that. My cutter was pretty straight, but that usually comes around pretty quick.”

Melancon didn’t even throw his go-to cutter, saying he usually pockets it until later in camp. He’s getting the feel for his curveball back because he doesn’t throw it until he reports. Like Bumgarner, Melancon said he’s where he needs to be physically.

“I feel really good,” he said. “In years past there has been some slowness but I don’t feel that this year. I’m right where I want to be.”

The Giants have not finalized a Cactus League rotation, but Bumgarner will likely throw an inning in Friday’s opener. Melancon could follow him, as he’ll throw in the early innings until late March. He said he’ll talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about closing a game or two over the final days of camp so he can start locking his routine down. It’s probably a lock that he’ll close out that first Bay Bridge Series game back at AT&T Park. 

ICYMI: Here’s actual (shaky) footage of Bumgarner throwing today. At one point, he gave Denard Span a hard time for missing a slider that he was told was coming. Span had a good reason. “I didn't understand him when he said it because of his accent,” he said. 

ICYMI, PART II: The latest podcast is a couple of interviews with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Law explained how he ordered 800 chicken nuggets for his wedding. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants now expect Johnny Cueto to join camp this weekend. His status for the WBC is up in the air. Speaking of the WBC, trainer Dave Groeschner will be leaving camp on Feb. 27 to work with manager Hensley Meulens and the Netherlands. Bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is also working with the team, which opens play in Seoul. Anthony Reyes will be head trainer while Groeschner is gone.

PROSPECT WATCH: Bruce Bochy said right-hander Ray Black was a standout during early live BP sessions. “He had a hell of an outing yesterday,” Bochy said. “They said he was really good.”   Black, 26, still throws 100-plus. He still has command issues, though, with 32 walks in 31 1/3 innings last year. If he can get over that hump and stay healthy, he might rocket to the big leagues.

QUOTABLE: After just about every start last season — most of which were dominant — Bumgarner said he wasn’t happy with his mechanics. He said Tuesday that he’s still searching for the perfect feeling. “I was being a perfectionist,” he said. “If you’re being a perfectionist, I really haven’t had (my mechanics) where I wanted the last couple of years. It’s not like it’s too far off, obviously.”

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have been watching high-quality clips of Johnny Cueto all spring, even though the co-ace has remained in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, manager Bruce Bochy finally managed to get face-to-face with Cueto. Kind of. 

Cueto spoke to Bochy, trainer Dave Groeschner and others via FaceTime, and all involved finally managed to hammer out a schedule for Cueto’s arrival. Cueto has been in the Dominican Republic tending to his ill father, Domingo, but he is expected to arrive in Scottsdale this weekend. Cueto is working to secure a visa for his father, who will travel with him.

Bochy wanted to have a long discussion with Cueto to get a sense of how ready he’ll be for the World Baseball Classic. Cueto’s participation is still up in the air, and not just because he has missed the first week of camp. There is a chance, Bochy said, that Cueto will choose to stay in Scottsdale to continue taking care of his father. The Dominican Republic opens play in Miami on March 9.

“He said he knows he’s got to make a decision real soon regarding what he does,” Bochy said. “Pitching or not pitching, he’s got to let them know as soon as possible.”

Cueto has been throwing to hitters at a facility in Boca Chica. He threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.