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News » Phillies Notes: In a slump, Rollins finds rhythm as pinch-hitter

Phillies Notes: In a slump, Rollins finds rhythm as pinch-hitter

Phillies Notes: In a slump, Rollins finds rhythm as pinch-hitter
Eric Bruntlett started at shortstop yesterday in place of Jimmy Rollins, the same substitution that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel made last July 24 when Rollins arrived late to a game in New York.This time, however, the move was entirely Baseball-related. Manuel said that the slumping Rollins, batting .152 in 35 at-bats this season, would benefit from a day working in the cage, rather than playing an entire game. The strategy yielded results more immediately than even Manuel had imagined: Rollins hit a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning, narrowing the San Diego lead to 4-3 and allowing Raul Ibanez's ninth-inning, two-run shot to win the game. It was the first pinch-hit homer of Rollins' career."When you're scuffling, a day off sometimes helps," Manuel said. "He can go in the cage and gets his swing back. Sometimes a day off can be the best thing for you, and Jimmy doesn't take many."Rollins heeded his manager's suggestion of additional work; he was hitting in the cage behind the Phillies' dugout when Manuel told hitting coach Milt Thompson to summon the shortstop to bat for pitcher J.A. Happ .Manuel said that he was confident Rollins would be able to resolve his issues.

"Jimmy Rollins knows his hitting," the manager said. "He knows that he hits with a short, compact swing . . . When he's long, that's when he gets underneath the ball or he pulls off."Howard's defense Ryan Howard lost about 20 pounds during the off-season in an effort to improve his speed and defense. Although Howard has carried a reputation as a poor-fielding first baseman, both his manager and some statistical analysts disagree with that diagnosis."A star player, people watch them more, and remember it if he makes an error or mistake," Manuel said.This year's edition of John Dewan's The Fielding Bible, a book that uses advanced metrics to measure defensive performance, listed Howard as an average first baseman, ranked 12th in the major leagues.Yesterday, Howard made three sterling plays that proved significant in the one-run victory. In the third inning, he dove to his right to snare a low liner from Adrian Gonzalez , then stood and flipped the ball to Chan Ho Park, ending the inning.In the sixth, with runners on first and second and none out, Evreth Cabrera hit a sharp grounder to Howard's right. Howard dropped to the ground, fully extended, and snagged the ball in his glove. He flipped to Happ, covering first, in time to get the runner.In the seventh, Howard snagged a pop-up near his belt while running toward the stands down the right-field line.Howard said afterward that the final play was the most difficult. "The run down the line was a pretty long run," he said. "I'm trying to feel more consistent, just working at it every day."Said Manuel: "When you make good plays, that's what breeds confidence, and I think you feel better about yourself and you get more into wanting to play defense and being more alert. Howard used to show me in the minor leagues that he could play defense."Park shaky In his second start of the season, Chan Ho Park surrendered four runs in five innings yesterday, after allowing five runs in 31/3 innings April 12 in Colorado. He said that difficulty commanding his slider was the primary reason for his ineffectiveness. (Gonzalez homered on a slider in the fifth.) That pitch had been sharp in spring training, when Park outpitched Happ to win the fifth spot in the rotation.Happ relieved Park yesterday and contributed three scoreless innings. In 72/3 innings this season, all from the bullpen, Happ has posted a 2.35 ERA. Manuel has noticed, but he said Park is unlikely to lose his starting job soon."It's still early and everything, but you don't want to lose games," Manuel said. But at the same time, if you commit to somebody, I feel like you've got to give them a right chance."Contact staff writer Andy Martino at 215-854-4874 or

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Added: April 20, 2009

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