Some people believe Jimmy Rollins is the best answer to the biggest question dogging the Phillies right now: Where, oh, where has manager Charlie Manuel's offense gone?
"I sit there and think, 'What kind of ballplayer, even if it's an extra man, could give the team a spark?' " Phillies chairman Bill Giles said Thursday during a charity event at Citizens Bank Park.
His conclusion: Injured shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
"I think we miss J-Roll's energy as much as his ability," Giles said.
Rollins returned from his 10 days of rehabilitation workouts in Clearwater, Fla., to take part in his fifth annual Jimmy Rollins BaseBowl Tournament in Center City to benefit the Arthritis Foundation.
Rollins will rejoin his teammates for the start of Friday night's four-game series against the San Diego Padres, but he is not ready to return from his second stint on the disabled list caused by a strained right calf. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the three-time all-star shortstop would not be ready to return Sunday when he is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.
"He's progressing slowly," Amaro said. "He's still feeling a little something in his calf, although when he runs on a treadmill or jogs on a treadmill, he's fine. When he gets to do some sprint work, he still feels some tightness in the calf. I think, hopefully, in the next 10 days or two weeks he'll be back playing for us."
Before Rollins' latest trip to the disabled list, the Phillies had survived quite well without him. They were 18-12 in 30 games during his absence earlier this season and 16-12 without him during a stretch in 2008.
This time, however, the Phillies' offense disappeared right about the same time Rollins aggravated the calf injury that he first suffered running wind sprints before the April 12 home opener.
Since Rollins left in the sixth inning of a May 21 win against Boston, the Phillies have gone scoreless in 92 of 99 innings. They have scored a total of 14 runs and gone 2-9, watching a 41/2-game lead in the National League East turn into a 21/2-game deficit to the first-place Atlanta Braves.
Rollins answered questions about his calf before his bowling tournament, but he admitted to being just as perplexed as everyone else about the offense.
"If I was there, I'd probably have a good answer for you," he said. "But being outside the clubhouse and not knowing what the mood is like in there . . . maybe we need a fight or something. Maybe just coming back home with a fresh start again.
"This is usually something that happens in June, so if we got it out of the way the last week in May, that's great with me. We have a tough schedule ahead of us, so it's a good time to start hitting the ball."
Rollins said he could have participated in his bowling tournament but opted against it.
"I probably can, but I'm not going to take a chance," he said. "On top of that, it's just not a good look to be bowling while you're on the DL."
The shortstop said this injury has not been as severe as his initial calf injury this season, but he couldn't offer an exact timetable for his return.
"It's not going slow at all," he said. "We're right on schedule. I'll be back whenever they say I'm good to go and I feel I'm good to go. We've been aggressive in certain areas and not as aggressive as we were in others in the past."
Rollins does not think he returned too soon from his first calf injury.
"We did everything right last time, but injuries are injuries," he said. "Maybe you're working a muscle, you haven't worked before and fatigue plays a factor. I know it's different as far as the pain threshold from what I was able to withstand with this one. I didn't have to limp this time after the first day it happened, so that right there shows you it's not as bad as the first time.
"It's one of those things you try to do everything right and sometimes it still doesn't work. [Calves] are tricky cats. There really isn't too much known about calves. They're small muscles, but everybody knows they work for speed."
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or email@example.com.