There are decisions to be made in Florida, probably more than a typical Charlie Manuel spring training, but nothing is more paramount than ascertaining the Phillies' health. Keeping an aging core on the field is proving a tougher task each year. In recent springs, Manuel has lessened the Grapefruit League load on his veterans.
But the 69-year-old manager has no qualms with Jimmy Rollins' selection as shortstop for the United States in the World Baseball Classic.
"Actually, it'll be good for him," Manuel said. "Different scenery helps Jimmy. It matches his personality and how he looks at things. Over the years, I've gotten to know him pretty well. If there is different scenery, he really gets into it."
Manuel often likes to label Rollins a "red-light player" meaning the shortstop is at his best when the stage is grandest. Judging by America's interest in the World Baseball Classic, it's hard to describe it as a major event.
At the very least, it offers a change of pace from the monotony of Grapefruit League play.
Rollins batted 24 times during tournament play in 2009. With the United States' early elimination, he still had the chance to bat 37 times in Grapefruit League play. And all of that does not count the various exhibition games the United States played for practice.
It all added up to a typical spring workload for Rollins.
Manuel said at the end of last season he went home to Florida and sat down to think about how to be proactive in reducing wear and tear on his aged roster.
No surprise. It's January, so Manuel is talking about regular rest for his everyday players. That's a typical proclamation that falls by the wayside for various reasons.
"With the way Freddy Galvis plays defense, and if we set up the way I want us to, we can definitely give Rollins a break," Manuel said. "Rollins won't have to play 158 games next year. I talked to him about it at the end of the year. And [Chase] Utley won't have to play 162 games. If you look at it, if a guy hits at the top of the order and plays 140 games, that's 560 at-bats. If they get 560, 580 at-bats, him, Howard and Rollins -- and Michae l Young, too -- to me, that's a complete season. And we definitely should be able to keep them a little bit stronger and a little healthier that way."
Whatever the case, Manuel's primary concern this spring is his team's health. There are plenty of unknowns.
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