by Mike Radano
When Juan Castro headed out to short before Monday’s home opener against Washington, Phillies fans across the region went into panic mode.
Castro wasn’t introduced moments before that in the annual roll-call that is the prelude to the first home game of the year. That designation has Jimmy Rollins birthright since 2001. Rollins is a so-called “red-light” player and the home opener is a “red-light” kind of day. For a team that has been relatively healthy over an unprecedented run of success – for this franchise – this wasn’t a good sign.
Text messages, phones calls and not to mention a few spilled beverages of choice left only two options for Phillies fans: “Was Jimmy late?” or “Jimmy’s hurt?”
Turns out it’s “Jimmy’s hurt.”
Rollins didn’t talk after the game with what has been described as a Grade-2 calf strain. If Tuesday’s MRI confirmed this diagnosis, the common opinion is Rollins is out for four-to-six weeks.
By the time official word came down from the Phillies in the form of a press release from general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., it was pretty much a given Rollins would be out of the lineup for a lengthy period of time.
“Jimmy had an MRI at 2:00 this afternoon. We are reviewing the results of the
MRI and will decide on Jimmy’s status sometime tomorrow when we have the
opportunity to meet as a group.”
Now, it’s pretty clear Rollins will return this season. It’s also readily evident that this type of injury requires rest and is something that while certainly a bump in the road, doesn’t end a season that still has 155 games left to play.
It’s also pretty clear that the Phillies have already begun the process of figuring out how to replace Rollins when he goes on the 15-day disabled list. Seriously, does anyone think Rollins won’t be placed on the DL on Wednesday? Does anyone think the Phillies brain trust is huddled over the MRI making a diagnosis?
Granted, the image of special adviser Dallas Green throwing the MRI on a conference table in disgust and uttering a vulgarity about Rollins manhood is kind of funny but that’s not what’s happening.
At the same time, what’s not funny is the sight of Rollins leaving his appointment with a boot hobbling down the streets of Philadelphia. Rollins went by himself? Are we to believe he couldn’t get a ride? What’s up with that?
That of course is all the sideshow. It’s the imagery that distracts from the obvious concern. It’s Gilbert Gottfried asking Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop II “Is there something that I have in this office that I could hand to you, and that would make you kind of forget that you’re holding those, uh, little pink tickets there?”
Here’s the thing, the Phillies have been here before and are equipped to handle the loss of Rollins short term. They did it in 2008 when he sprained his left ankle in the home opener at Shea Stadium. The did it last year when he was MIA for the better part of three months before he regained his groove in 2009.
The fact is, as ESPN’s Jayson Stark pointed out, this is not something new but it is more than what the Phillies have been accustomed too over the past three seasons. Last year six of the Phillies’ eight starting position players played in 150 games or and the Phillies in all reality more than any other team have been blessed by good health over the past few seasons. It should also be noted that the Phillies lineup has been scoring runs at a record pace over the first seven games – against Washington and Houston whose pitching staffs which will never be confused with the 1960’s Dodgers – and keeping that up will be tougher without Rollins.
That said, as important as Rollins is, this team is still favored to make it back to the World Series. It’s good enough to win the National League East for a fourth consecutive season.
The caveat being he returns in late-May and not August because he came back too soon.
So when Amaro gathers his crew, if he hasn’t already (he has, just accept this as fact), it won’t be whether or not Rollins is going to the DL. The question will be what can they do to stem the tide until Rollins’ return?
Amaro has proven to be adept at handling this very type of situation. The Phillies in general have shown an ability to roll with the punches since 2006 when general manager Pat Gillick showed how to move quickly when time was of the essence.
If nothing else, this is Gillick’s legacy. He demonstrated to an organization that previously allowed itself to get bogged down in memos, permission, countless meetings, public relations, friendships, loyalty and other barriers that sometimes the best option is the first option.
It’s not as if the Phillies have a ton of options, just know that whatever the decision beyond sending Rollins to the DL is, be it, according to mlb.com’s Todd Zolecki, Brian Bocock, Wilson Valdez or Cody Ransom, it’s the right one.
It’s the right one because the only thing that matters is getting Rollins healthy for the final four months of the season because this groups of players, coaching staff and management can handle everything for the next four-to-six weeks.
Michael Radano’s blog is found at phillysportscentral.com as well as philliesphever.wordpress.com and highhopes.wordpress.com