Sandberg glad Rollins' 200th HR 'out of the way'


Sandberg glad Rollins' 200th HR 'out of the way'

ARLINGTON, Tex. – There was a moment after the Phillies' season opener Monday when it became clear just how differently Ryne Sandberg and Jimmy Rollins look at the art of hitting.

Rollins hit his 200th career homer -- and in dramatic fashion, it was a grand slam -- in the second inning of the Phillies’ 14-10 win over Texas (see game recap).

After the game, Sandberg said, “I guarantee you he wasn’t thinking about a home run there. It was just a compact swing with elevated results.”

Oh, yeah?

A few minutes later, after he emerged from a lengthy round of postgame batting practice with Marlon Byrd and Ben Revere, Rollins admitted that, oh, yeah, he was thinking long ball in that situation.

“I was in the dugout right before that and was like, ‘It would be cool to have your first hit be a grand slam on opening day,’” Rollins said.

Sandberg knows Rollins’ place in Phillies' history. He knew Rollins entered the season 60 hits (now 59) shy of breaking Mike Schmidt’s franchise record. He knew Rollins entered opening day with 199 career homers.

How else do you explain this comment?

“I’m glad to get that one out of the way, but it came at a big time,” Sandberg said. “Now just line drive and get on base and run the bases.”

Sandberg is glad home run No. 200 is in Rollins’ rearview mirror. He doesn’t want Rollins thinking home run. He wants him working counts, thinking line drives, keeping the ball out of the air and using his legs, which remain a good weapon even at age 35.

Other managers have told Rollins this, including Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel.

Rollins seemed open to it when Sandberg first spoke to him about the matter in August, but time will tell whether he adopts this approach.

“I don’t tell him not to hit home runs,” Sandberg said. “But I don’t want him to lift the ball and live in the air batting in the two hole. Not with his baserunning skills and being able to score runs.

“With his speed and where he hits in the order, leadoff or second, one of his biggest assets is his baserunning skills, which are off the charts. I’ve talked to him about getting on base and running the bases. Home runs will come, but I don’t want him to live in the air and think about home runs. That’s what he worked on in spring training, using the middle of the field and going the other way. The home run today was seeing the ball and reacting.”

Rollins enjoyed the home run. He knew it was a milestone.

“I remember growing up going to Oakland A’s games and looking at the size of Mark McGwire, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to hit too many home runs,’” he said. “I guess I proved myself wrong.”

Rollins played the game knowing he might have to bolt back to Philadelphia at a moment’s notice. His wife is close to giving birth to the couple’s second child.

“The baby let me go out there and play ball for a few more days,” Rollins said.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.