GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He had other nice options, but Jimmy Rollins feels like he took the best opportunity he was presented with this offseason.
On Thursday, the newest member of the White Sox expressed his desire to play baseball is still very strong.
After participating in his first workout, Rollins identified playing time as the primary reason he bypassed other clubs’ proposals, including one with a guaranteed roster spot, to sign with the White Sox. Rollins doesn’t have the same guarantee here after he signed a minor-league deal on Monday. But he does have the chance to take over as the team’s starting shortstop if he wins the job, and that’s exactly what Rollins wants.
“This was the place that I could come in and fight for a position,” Rollins said. “I had a couple of other places to go to with some guaranteed spots. But no matter how well I was going to do I was going to be a ‘super-utility,’ is what they like to call it these days. So I have an opportunity to come in here and fight for a position.”
Three days after he signed a deal that could pay him $2 million, Rollins checked in to big league camp and began to make his presence felt.
Just as the White Sox suspected when they signed him, all eyes were fixed on the 37-year-old veteran as he made his way through the clubhouse. Prospect Tim Anderson, whom is excited to learn from Rollins, shared several moments with his potential mentor throughout the morning. Pitcher Mat Latos made his way over to Rollins several times while prospect Carson Fulmer -- who had to surrender his plush locker stall to make room for the veteran shortstop -- said he looked forward to the right moment when he could approach Rollins.
Rollins also reunited with former teammates Jim Thome and Aaron Rowand and spent a lot of time talking to third-base coach Joe McEwing in between completing his first workout.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura likes the ease with which Rollins had as he made the rounds.
“It’s a good fit right now,” Ventura said. “He’s been around a lot of different players and characters. So it’s not like he’s coming over here without his own experiences. But he likes to have fun.”
Rollins made that very clear in his media session. Before the cameras turned on, the 5-foot-7 shortstop made a wise crack that he wished he had a “Tom Cruise” box to stand on to be taller for the cameras. He also said that Anderson didn’t inform him that he considered Rollins a hero, which the Oakland, Calif. native joked he enjoyed for another reason.
“He didn't tell me the hero part,” Rollins said. “That's actually pretty cool. Any time a tall guy chooses a short guy to be the hero is pretty awesome. I'll talk to him, give him my number, go out to dinner, talk about anything. If he asks questions, hopefully I can answer.”
Though they believe he still has enough talent to succeed, the White Sox want answers on how much Rollins has left. He may be in the lead to take over as the team’s starting shortstop, but he first has to win a competition with Tyler Saladino.
Last season, Rollins’ offensive numbers slipped as he produced a career low .643 OPS for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When it comes to Rollins, executive vice president Kenny Williams said he’s in “wait-and-see” mode.
“All of our information suggests that he still is a very talented player,” Williams said. “He’s not the MVP guy that he used to be and we know that. But he can help on a team that has championship aspirations. Now, to what degree? That will be shown in spring training, that will be shown in his work, that will be shown and talked about in countless meetings as we go forward and we’ll come out of spring training with a plan.”
Headed into his 17th season, Rollins is more than OK with the situation he’s in. He said he’d like to play until “they take the uniform” away and feels like he’s physically prepared to work himself into baseball shape. He likes the idea of working with Anderson and Saladino. Rollins also realized he knows more people in the clubhouse than he previously thought.
And, of course, he has the chance to win a starting job.
“That's what you want, an opportunity to control your playing time and you dictate that as opposed to having to walk into a situation,” Rollins said. “If (a bench spot is) your only option, you take it. But I had an option to fight for a starting spot and I'm here.”