Aug 162010

August 16 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann

“The Phillies have done a creditable job of remaining lasered for the last 6 weeks, in the time that Chase Utley and then, later, Ryan Howard have been under repair. Backed by more consistent starting pitching, they have played about .600 baseball in that time and gained a smidgen in the National League East standings.

Now, we all have one eye on Utley’s Clearwater rehab assignment (where the conclave appears ready to send the white smoke up the chimney) and the other eye on Howard’s fading limp. They both could be back sometime this week. The presumption among the paying customers is that the Phillies will take off like a rocket when these two return to the lineup, and they might. Waiting for Chase, waiting for Ryan – it has become a favored rite of anticipation.

There is another one, though, quieter and more uncertain.

Waiting for Jimmy.

It has been the season of Jimmy Rollins’ nightmares. Two separate disabled-list visits with a recurring calf problem, a terrible whack on his ankle with a foul ball, start, stop, start, stop – and now, if nothing else happens, he’ll end up playing about 100 games.

Their shortstop, their leadoff hitter, their unconventional ignition switch for a decade now, Rollins was limping along with a .243 batting average going into last night’s game against the Mets at Citi Field. It is the worst of his career, and it is getting late, and everybody knows it.

“I keep waiting for him to get his stroke,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “He’s having a hard time finding his swing.”

Manuel said, “He doesn’t have a good feel.”

He said, “He’s not hitting the ball crisp.”

And, “He works on it every day but he’s having a hard time finding it.”

Meanwhile, there are only 45 games left on the schedule. And last night left you wondering if maybe, just maybe, the thing that might lead Rollins out of his funk could be his legs.

In the third inning of the Phillies’ 3-1 victory, with two outs, he served a single into leftfield, stole second base, stole third base, and then scored on a double by Shane Victorino. It was one of those constructively disruptive sequences that always have been a part of the Rollins trademark.

“When I get on, I try to take advantage – especially on days when I’m feeling a little better,” said Rollins, who acknowledged that his ankle felt noticeably better on Saturday when he rounded first base and was surprised to feel no pain.

“Rollins and Victorino stealing [manufacturing a later run], it was the first time in a long time . . . when we had them on base like that,” Manuel said. “They kind of manufactured some runs that way. That was our offense.”” 

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