Sunday, December 21, 2014

The morning after: So now what?

When Greg Dobbs went into the Phillies clubhouse during Monday's game to prepare for a possible pinch hitting appearance in the later innings, he saw shortstop Jimmy Rollins at his locker, a few stalls down.

The morning after: So now what?

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will undergo an MRI to measure the severity of his calf strain. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)
Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will undergo an MRI to measure the severity of his calf strain. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

When Greg Dobbs went into the Phillies clubhouse during Monday's game to prepare for a possible pinch hitting appearance in the later innings, he saw shortstop Jimmy Rollins at his locker, a few stalls down.

Dobbs, who went through a painful and costly calf injury of his own for the entire 2009 season, could sense Rollins' disappointment.

"He was like, 'I can't believe this is going on,' " Dobbs said. "I felt for him. He was extremely frustrated."

That's ominous.

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The Phillies will know more about how severe shortstop Jimmy Rollins' right calf strain is Tuesday when he undergoes an MRI.

But the feeling in the clubhouse following Monday's 7-4 win was palpable. No one could be very optimistic about Rollins because there is one universal truth to calf injuries: Without significant rest, they can linger. Considering it's only April 13, that's the last thing the Phillies want.

For Rollins, it's an injury that could be especially frustrating. He likes to run at the top of the order and the Phillies need him to be able to do that.

Should Rollins have to go to the disabled list, Juan Castro is probably the guy at shortstop.

“Jimmy’s a special type of player. It’s hard to replace a guy like that," second baseman Chase Utley said. "But with Castro, you know what you’re going to get. He plays great defense. He’s fresh off of spring training and he’s had some at-bats recently."

Yeah, except Castro booted a routine groundball at shortstop Monday and also made two errors at shortstop in 18 spring training games. He's limited with the bat, but if it came to this situation, the Phillies would likely be asking their new shortstop to hit eighth. (Frank Fitzpatrick has more details on Castro.)

At triple-A Lehigh Valley, there is some depth with major-league experience. Both Wilson Valdez (Mets) and Cody Ransom (Yankees) played in the majors last season. Each had decent springs for the Phillies. Valdez is hitting .474 (9-for-19) with Lehigh Valley. Ransom is hitting .188 (3-for-16) with a home run.

Even if Rollins doesn't need to go on the disabled list, the Phillies could look at one of those guys for a short-term solution. Castro is the only player on the current roster other than Rollins who can play shortstop.

Is there a blueprint for success recently without Rollins? Yes: In 2008, Rollins didn't start for 28 games in parts of April and May with a left ankle injury. Over that span, the Phillies were 16-12. During that period, Shane Victorino handled the majority of games as leadoff hitter (12 games), followed by Jayson Werth (eight), So Taguchi (seven) and Geoff Jenkins (one). Yeah, times were different.

Victorino would be the most likely candidate to slide into Rollins' spot in the order. In 2010, Victorino has hit the ball hard at times but is just 5-for-31 (.161 average) to begin the season. He has one extra-base hit, a home run.

In his career, Victorino has batted leadoff in 44 games (204 plate appearances). His OPS is .615 and the complete line looks like this: .227/.291/.324.

For now, the Phillies will wait on Rollins' examination with relatively small expectations.

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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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