Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins stole 41 bases last season, fourth-most in the National League. Yet through the first 15 games of the Grapefruit League season, he had yet to even attempt a stolen base.
Not to worry, Rollins said. He wants to make sure that his legs are
ready for a demanding season at a busy position for a base stealer.
"There's no need to run around crazy," Rollins said. "It's like
pitchers. The first couple of weeks they're throwing all fastballs or
working on stuff, then eventually they put it all together. So far I've
been watching pitchers, trying to get the timing down."
Rollins believes that it is much tougher on a shortstop to steal
bases as opposed to an outfielder, who over the course of a game has
more quiet spells in the field to recharge his batteries. The numbers
bear that out. Over the last five seasons, his 168 stolen bases are the
fifth-most in the majors, and the four players ahead of him on the list
- Juan Pierre (260), Ichiro Suzuki (190), Scott Podsednik (172) and
Carl Crawford (169) - are outfielders.
"I don't think people know what it's like to steal 40 or 50 bases
and then play shortstop," Rollins said. "It's not like you get to kick back and recharge. If there's a ball hit to third or second, I'm moving. A ball to the outfield, I'm moving. I'm always doing something, and I play every day. I have to preserve myself."
On the outside, Gavin Floyd is as placid as a pond on a cool, autumn night.
However, below the surface there has been an undertow that has been pulling the right-hander in all directions. It started 11 months ago when, despite an impressive end-of-season, big-league performance in 2004 and an electric effort against the Cardinals in his 2005 debut, Floyd was taken out of the Phillies' starting rotation when Vicente Padilla came off the disabled list.
It bothered Floyd inside, even though he tried to cover it with his mild manner. He tried to get on with business as usual, but instead he was torched in a couple of relief appearances with the Phillies.
Then he was sent to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, and the problems
continued. He couldn't find the plate, and on those sporadic occasions he did find the plate, he was getting knocked silly.
Advice came from all sides. His head was spinning. He finished the season with a 6.16 ERA in Triple-A. That's an ugly number for a 57th-round draft pick, but much better was expected of Floyd, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2001 draft.
This spring Floyd wanted to put the 2005 abomination behind him. However, in his first three Grapefruit League appearances, he was inconsistent.
Finally, Floyd stopped trying to ignore the choppy seas below the surface. Enough is enough, he told himself. And last week against the
Blue Jays, he pitched as if his insides had at long last calmed.
Floyd allowed one run over four innings in the Phillies' 7-1 win at Bright House Networks Field. But it was the way he pitched that mattered most. He struck out five, walked none. His fastball was alive and buzzing the corners at the knees. His curve was tight and sharp.
For the first time in 11 months, he looked like the Gavin Floyd the Phillies have long treasured.
"It got to a point in the last couple of days where I told myself to let loose, try to relax and pitch," said Floyd in what was more of a confessional than a post-game interview. "I wanted to be the effortless guy that I've always been.”
"Sometimes you get going in circles and you need to just stop it. Hopefully I can be a guy who says, who cares, stop thinking and go do it."
When asked whether starting this season in Triple-A (which is highly
probable) would irk him, Floyd said, "Of course there would be a level of disappointment. But not as disappointing as when they took me out (of the rotation) last year. Last year was more of an ego thing. It cut me in half last year."
There is a possibility that Floyd will be dealt this year. There are those within the organization who admit that the best cure for Floyd might be a change of scenery.
The Phillies desperately need help at the back end of their bullpen (someone like Royals closer Mike MacDougal, for example) and Floyd is the type of talent who could warrant a high-end reliever in return.
News and Notes:
BY THE NUMBERS: 10 - Number of strikeouts CF Aaron Rowand had in his first 30 at-bats this spring. The Phillies would like to see Rowand cut down on his whiffs this season after he struck out 116 times in 578 at-bats last season for the White Sox.
- Tom Gordon pitched a scoreless seventh inning against the Reds
on Sunday, his first Grapefruit League outing since March 3. Gordon sat
out nearly a week with stiffness in his elbow, then made two appearances in minor league games before rejoining the Phils.
- Arthur Rhodes has looked extremely sharp this spring. He has
allowed two hits and one run in five innings this spring after a 1-2-3
inning Sunday against the Reds. Manager Charlie Manuel raved about the
veteran's location with his mid-90 mph fastball.
- Cole Hamels made his second start of the spring. Pitching in a
minor league game, the potential mid-season addition to the big-league rotation allowed one run over three innings against Toronto's Triple-A squad.
- C/INF Chris Coste is making it almost impossible for manager
Charlie Manuel to leave him off his roster. The 33-year-old career
minor-leaguer had two home runs Saturday against the Pirates, including
a two-out, game-tying shot in the bottom of the ninth, and Sunday he
doubled off Reds veteran LHP Chris Hammond to raise his spring average
- Julio Santana took a step back in his quest to make the Phillies' Opening Day roster. He gave up two runs in his one inning against the Reds, allowing a walk, a hit batter and a two-run double by Edwin Encarnacion.
- Alex Gonzalez played in left field during minor league games the past three days. The Phillies only have four outfielders and have been in the market for another outfielder with pop. If general manager Pat Gillick can't find a
suitable fifth outfielder, Gonzalez could find himself out there for an inning or two in certain situations.
- Chris Booker (sore knee) made his first game appearance of the spring Friday, allowing one earned run in two innings in a minor league game. Booker, a Rule 5 invitee to camp, hopes to make four or five Grapefruit League appearances, and that that would be enough to convince the Phillies to keep him on Opening Day.
- Pat Burrell continues to be hampered with a sore right foot that didn't respond well to off-season surgery. Although Burrell is playing in the field, the Phillies have been replacing him with a pinch-runner whenever he reaches base in the middle innings.
He said wht? "I'm on a mission not to care." - Gavin Floyd, on trying to get over the mind games that plagued him last season.