Opportunity made the White Sox the best fit for Jimmy Rollins
GLENDALE, Ariz – Make no mistake, he’s not quite the same as he was back in 2007 or 2008 or 2009.
Jimmy Rollins is now 37 years old and the statistics show that his batting average has decreased in each of his last four seasons-including a career-low .224 in 144 games with the Dodgers last season.
But that doesn’t mean a player with four Gold Gloves, an MVP award and a World Championship isn’t worth something. That’s why the phones were ringing for Rollins during spring training, including a few for a guaranteed spot in the major leagues.
But there was something intreguing about the inquiry he got from White Sox general Manager Rick Hahn this past week, even if it was just a minor league contract that was being offered.
Indeed it was bigger risk, bigger reward for the three-time All-Star.
“No matter what I was going to do I was going to be a ‘Super Utility’ is what they like to call it these days,” said Rollins. “So I have an opportunity to come here and fight for a position and that’s what you want, an opportunity to control your playing time. You dictate that as opposed to having to walk to a situation.
“If that’s your only option, you take it. But I had an option to fight for a starting spot and I’m here.”
For the first time this spring training on Thursday at Camelback Ranch as he joined his White Sox teammates for the first time. It’s the third team that Rollins has been with since making his debut in the majors with the Phillies in 2000. He spent 15 seasons there before joining the Dodgers for the 2015 season in what essentially was a one-year rental for the club and to help out prospect Corey Seager.
While his hitting might not be what it was back in the Phillies days his glove remains strong as he committed just nine errors in 2015 with a fielding percentage of .983. He can certainly be a reliable glove for a team that had 101 errors in 2015 but he does hope to get that average up a bit in 2016.
“As a player you can take pride in both sides,” said Rollins. “Having been a leadoff hitter the majority of my career, you have to find a way to spark the team and you do that in anyway possible. But there are going to be times no matter who you are, you’re just not going to hit and that guy on the mound, the guy to your left and right are counting on you to make that play.
“So if you’re stuck in your own way because you are not hitting the ball it will show up. I’ve never wanted that to be the case. I have to have an impact on the game somehow and just being in the middle of the field, you are basically involved in every play.”
Along with improving his own game, will Rollins be teaching along with competing for the starting shortstop spot with young players Tyler Saladino and Tim Anderson, likely the future of the position in the organization? Rollins isn’t sure at the moment.
“Just get to know them. I’ve heard a lot about them, all good things,” said Rollins of Saladino and Anderson. “He can play. He’s (Anderson) a heck of a story, first rounder coming out of a JUCO, he’s a basketball player, but he’s one heck of a baseball talent and still working his way up.
“What ever he picks up, whatever he has to ask I can probably answer. If I can’t, then I won’t lie to him.”
The White Sox didn’t when they picked up the phone, and that’s why Rollins will call Chicago home for the next year.