CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jimmy Rollins' name was whited-out on the Phillies lineup card Tuesday morning. Someone in the clubhouse called to tell the shortstop not drive to Orlando for the day's game against Atlanta. He would not play as scheduled.
He did not appear in Wednesday's lineup, and he will not play Thursday. That is three days on the bench in the middle of spring training for a regular.
"Oh, it is unusual," Rollins said. "But I’m not going to try to second guess or predict or come up with a reason why."
Ryne Sandberg's first managerial test arrived with less than three weeks until opening day, and it is one two Phillies managers before him confronted. Rollins, the longest-tenured player in Philadelphia, is often criticized for his aloofness. He was unbothered Thursday about these recent developments, but curious for clarification.
The manager and shortstop have not spoken since Monday. Rollins said he will not seek a conversation with Sandberg; he will wait for Sandberg to come to him.
"Obviously he is upset about something," Rollins said.
The first hint of any issue came after Wednesday's game in Sarasota, Fla., when Sandberg offered no explanation for Rollins' three-day benching. Unprompted, Sandberg praised Freddy Galvis' "energy and his positive influence." When asked about Rollins in that regard, Sandberg said, "No comment."
It sounded like a message for Rollins delivered through the media.
"Well, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion," Rollins said Thursday. "It doesn't make it right, but he's the manager so he gets to have the last say."
Sandberg preached aggressiveness at the start of his first spring training as manager. He inherited an aging roster, but his loyalty to those players is still an unknown. Rollins characterized his relationship with Sandberg as "good." He does not anticipate any long-term problems.
"We talk," Rollins said. "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."
When Rollins clashed with Charlie Manuel, the former manager made his intentions clear. Manuel managed for nine seasons, and the transition to a new personality will require time.
"We're still learning him," Rollins said, "he's still learning us from this side of it."
Rollins, 35, has spent his entire career with the Phillies. He will become the franchise's all-time leader in hits with 60 more. He said last summer he would not waive his no-trade clause. Rollins is guaranteed $5 million in 2015 with a player option. That could swell to $11 million if he nets 434 plate appearances in 2014.
Does Rollins fear the Phillies could manipulate that?
"That hasn't even crossed my mind," Rollins said.
A stomach virus limited Rollins earlier in camp. He has 15 at bats in seven Grapefruit League games. The Phillies' .606 OPS is worst in baseball this spring by 68 points. Sandberg expressed disappointment, but believed the bigger picture was far more important.
Rollins questioned the value in assessing spring statistics.
"It's apples and oranges," Rollins said. "No matter how much you want the orange to taste like an apple, it's an orange. No matter what. No matter how much you want these games to count for something, when April comes around, people aren't talking about this. People aren't talking about, 'Well he had a great spring training.' Maybe for the first two days or the first week. But if you start out 0-5 that doesn't matter. If you start out 5-0, that doesn't matter because you're doing it right now."
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