OK, Ryno: Here's Your First Test

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla.—So Ryne Sandberg, in his first spring training as the Phillies’ manager, has honed in on Jimmy Rollins as his first target for message-sending.

Sandberg held Rollins out of the starting lineup for Wednesday’s game against the Yankees, the third consecutive game for which he’s benched Rollins. When he was asked Wednesday about why Rollins has been sitting so often lately, Sandberg said, “No comment” and smiled a rather awkward smile.

Rollins was a bit more expansive Thursday morning. He said Sandberg hadn’t spoken to him yet about the reason behind the benching—a courtesy that Charlie Manuel routinely extended him whenever Manuel decided Rollins’ oft-lackadaisical jogs down the first-base line warranted punishment.

“He’s upset about something,” Rollins said of Sandberg. “Over the course of spring training, it could have been one specific incident. That’s something that, when he’s ready, he’ll let me know.”

Sandberg did cite the “positivity” that Freddy Galvis, who started in Rollins’ place Wednesday against the Orioles, has been bringing to the lineup. So it seems reasonable to think that the (relatively) new manager is making his mission clear:

After an 89-loss season, after complacency had set in under the beloved Manuel, no one gets a free pass, regardless of his resume. Fresh start, new tone, etc.

That’s fine, and it’s probably even necessary. But Sandberg is taking a risk here by not talking to Rollins as of Thursday morning, by allowing the best shortstop in franchise history to twist in the wind for a few days. If the other players are paying attention to how Sandberg will handle Rollins’ periodic lapses of concentration and hustle, they’re also noting how he treats a respected member of the team’s veteran core.

This really is Sandberg’s first test as manager. It may not turn out to be a big one, but it is a test, and it bears watching.