ATLANTA — During the first weeks of baseball, they grasped at silver linings with the knowledge it was early. One of them was, "Jimmy Rollins is not this bad."
The 33-year-old had signed a four-year, $38 million deal in the winter to secure his legacy with the Phillies. Then Charlie Manuel inserted Rollins third in his depleted lineup. The shortstop promptly skunked 18 games. He hit .229 with two extra-base hits in 76 plate appearances.
So that is what makes Manuel so optimistic now. The Phillies have won three of four games since Rollins was bumped to his customary leadoff spot in the lineup. Unprompted, Manuel mentioned how delightful it was to be around Rollins during Tuesday's win.
The manager was asked if he liked the offense's ability to score late in consecutive nights to secure victories.
"What I liked it the fact we got what I call leadership play from Rollins," Manuel said. "He had a good mindset [Tuesday]; he was having fun in the game. He put a lot in to helping us win the game. At the plate, how he went about it in the field, in the dugout. He was having fun playing."
Playfully, Manuel was asked if Rollins delivered any solid one-liners in the dugout.
"More than likely," Manuel said, "I'm the only guy that pops one liners."
Which is what he proceeded to do when asked why Rollins cannot be that energized on a nightly basis.
"He might have to count his money every now and then," Manuel quipped.
In all seriousness, the manager believes a switch to the leadoff spot has helped immensely. Rollins singled twice Tuesday — one during the key eighth-inning rally — and is 6 for 15 since moving to the top of the order. Manuel said he has talked often to Rollins about the mindset he wants this team to adopt.
He sees more effort from Rollins in the last four games.
"He likes to give us that energy and that life and that hustle that we need," Manuel said.
It's a start to erasing a miserable three weeks for Rollins.
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