Phillies manager Charlie Manuel insisted for years that Jimmy Rollins was his leadoff hitter, and Rollins repeatedly said he considers himself one. Yet the veteran shortstop will bat third when the Phils open the season Friday against Houston at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies finalized their 25-man roster after Wednesday's final exhibition game - Pete Orr and Michael Martinez made the team - but it was the revelation that Rollins will bat third in place of injured Chase Utley that was most notable.
It will be the first time Rollins will not start the season as the club's leadoff hitter since 2004 and only the third time since 2001, his first full season with the Phillies. Shane Victorino will lead off.
Manuel referred to Rollins' run production in explaining why the shortstop will bat third. During his MVP season of 2007, Rollins hit 30 home runs and drove in 94 runs. He's also had seasons in which he hit 25 and 21 homers and knocked in 83 and 77 runs.
"He's a switch-hitter who's going to hit in front of Ryan Howard," Manuel said. "He is a guy who has knocked in 90 runs before, and he did that in the No. 1 hole. So why can't he do it in the No. 3 hole?"
Of course, Manuel is counting on the 32-year-old Rollins to make a dramatic improvement over last season, when leg injuries limited him to 88 games and raised concerns that his age was beginning to take a toll. He had a career-low .243 batting average.
Batting third could work well for Rollins, because he's always been a free swinger looking to drive the ball. He has limited experience batting third - 40 starts and a .234 average.
Versatility a priority
Orr, a 31-year-old Canadian and second cousin to Flyers defenseman Nick Boynton, made the team based on an impressive spring and his versatility. He had a .536 slugging percentage and can play in the outfield as well as third base. Manuel said he's concerned about Placido Polanco's left-elbow problems and said Orr would be a capable backup at third.
The Phillies bullpen will consist of Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Antonio Bastardo, J.C. Romero, Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, and Ryan Madson. The Phils officially placed Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, Domonic Brown, Brian Schlitter, and Brian Bocock on the disabled list.
Manuel said the opening-day lineup will look much like the one he used in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh. It was Victorino (CF), Polanco (3B), Rollins (SS), Howard (1B), Raul Ibanez (LF), Ben Francisco (RF), Carlos Ruiz (C), and Wilson Valdez (2B).
Cole Hamels, who had been having problems with command of his pitches, was pleased with his final spring-training start even though he allowed two runs over three innings.
"I felt like my pitches were really working," he said.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or email@example.com.