Phillies Notebook: Manuel on base with Rollins batting third for Phillies

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Jimmy Rollins will bat third during Friday's Opening Day matchup against the Astros. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

JIMMY ROLLINS hits third. Shane Victorino leads off. Raul Ibanez hits fifth to protect cleanup hitter Ryan Howard.

When Jayson Werth accepted riches in Washington, D.C., this winter, and when Chase Utley's right knee finally gave out this spring, questions abounded about who would replace Utley in the third slot and Werth in the five hole.

Theories sprang up. Arguments commenced.

Yesterday, in the spring-training finale against Pittsburgh, the questions were answered, the theories, debunked.

The arguments will continue.

Not that any other argument makes much sense.

"It'll be pretty much close to what you saw today," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

It hinges, clearly, on what Rollins does in the No. 3 spot. He generally has been the leadoff hitter since he landed in the major leagues in 2001.

Utley, 32, sports an on-base percentage of .380. Rollins, 32, is at .328.

Manuel expects Rollins to improve by 52 points, since Manuel believes a competent No. 3 hitter should get on base at a .380 clip.

Manuel also figures that if Rollins lays off high fastballs and low breaking balls, he can do it. In fact, he figures Rollins hitting in front of Howard can protect the big guy as much as Ibanez can hitting behind Howard.

"He's a switch-hitter," Manuel said of Rollins. "He has knocked in over 90 runs before. He hit 30 homers one year, 20 doubles. He has extra-base-hit potential. All I can say he needs works on is his on-base percentage."

Rollins actually hit 30 homers with 20 triples, 38 doubles and 94 RBI in his MVP season of 2007. He has hit at least 20 homers twice, in 2006 and in 2009, and has hit at least 29 doubles in every full season he has played.

Rollins also is in the final year of his contract, which provides further incentive. Manuel indicated that Rollins might move back to the top of the lineup when Utley returns.

That, surely, would suit Rollins, who stumped to remain in the leadoff spot even before Utley was sidelined. There was talk of him moving into the fifth spot, or moving to the third spot and having Utley hit fifth.

He dismissed it. So did Manuel.

Now, they must address it.

 

Pirates 4, Phillies 1

 

Cole Hamels gave up a double to Lyle Overbay and a two-run homer to Pedro Alvarez that followed nearly identical lines to right-centerfield in the second inning. Both lefthanded hitters crushed fastballs - a cutter to Overbay that didn't cut and a regular fastball that bisected the plate.

"I missed with two pitches," said Hamels, who was otherwise delighted with his final tune-up.

Hamels finished the spring with a 1-2 record and a 6.67 earned-run average. The Phillies ended spring training at 21-14, the Pirates at 12-21.

 

Basketball, Jones

 

The Phillies' five starters yesterday got a gift from the Sixers' five starters: personalized Sixers home jerseys with their names and numbers on the back. They were appreciative, especially Roy Halladay, who has attended Sixers games and fondly recalls his days on the Arvada West High School hoops team in Colorado.

"Sometimes I had more fun with basketball than with baseball," said Halladay, a 6-6 role player who averaged double-digit points but concentrated on rebounding. "I just wasn't very good."

 

Mad Dog

 

In 11 games, historically successful setup man Ryan Madson posted a 3.00 ERA. He gave up 13 hits and two walks with 12 strikeouts in 12 innings of work this spring, and he was disappointed with his effort. At least he knows what the issue is.

Madson said that veteran Danys Baez recently noticed that Madson's hips were clearing long before his arm came through, a mechanical flaw Madson traced to his hands breaking slowly at the start of his delivery. Hence, less velocity, less movement, less control.

And no closer spot.

With Brad Lidge likely sidelined for a couple of months, Madson, 30, might have made a case for another chance to move to the closer role he covets. Instead, veteran Jose Contreras, 39, will get the first chance.

In 10 games this spring, Contreras posted a 1.74 ERA with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

"Contreras came on late in spring training, the command of his pitches. Coming down to it, he's ready to go," Manuel explained. "Not that he's better than Madson."

Maybe not, in general. But, at the moment, he is.

 

Phillers

 

Roy Halladay stressed the importance of having injured second baseman Chase Utley rehabilitating his injured knee with the team instead of at the team's spring training facility: "I'm really glad he's doing that here and not in Florida, doing that. You can't [overestimate] the influence he has in the clubhouse" . . . Lefthanded reliever Juan Perez, a minor leaguer, took a vicious line drive off his left thumb from the bat of Brian Friday in the ninth inning. He left the game. Afterward, Perez sat in the clubhouse at his locker, in obvious pain, an ice bag on his hand. No X-rays had yet been taken . . . Brad Lidge (shoulder), Utley (knee), Domonic Brown (hand), Brian Bocock (wrist) and Brian Schlitter (elbow) officially begin the year on the 15-day disabled list . . . Charlie Manuel indicated that righthander David Herndon will get the first chance at pitching in the seventh inning, in front of setup man Madson and closer Contreras . . . Jimmy Rollins collected his fourth steal of the spring in the first inning. He was not caught this spring.