Ryne Sandberg has lit a fire under Jimmy Rollins.
When Rollins hit a routine fly ball against the Mets Sunday afternoon, the old J-Roll might not have been flying up the first-base line and would have settled for a single.
Rollins 2.0 hustled to second for a double. Rollins, who was benched time to time by former manager Charlie Manuel for lack of hustle, isn’t just running harder. The veteran shortstop has played his best in 2013 since Sandberg took over for Manuel last month.
Rollins has pedestrian numbers for the season. The Phillies’ catalyst has just six homers and only 60 runs scored. However, Rollins has a .873 on-base, plus-slugging percentage in September.
“It hasn’t been the best season for me or the team but I’m trying to do my best,” Rollins said. “I’m playing as hard as I can.”
Rollins has been stellar in the field, which many Phillies fans may take for granted since he’s been an exceptional shortstop since he made his Philadelphia debut in 2000. Rollins made an unbelievable play behind Cliff Lee against the Marlins last week. Rollins ranged to his left in short left and threw a runner out by somehow firing a seed while off-balance.
“That was just amazing,” Lee said. “Jimmy is an incredible shortstop. A pitcher has no problem pitching to contact with Jimmy out there.”
Sandberg has been impressed with Rollins’ hustle and approach at the plate.
“I see a different mindset as far as hitting line drives,” Sandberg said. “He’s using the whole field.”
That’s potentially good news for the Phillies. Rollins, who will turn 35 in November, is under contract for 2014.
“I like what I see in the young guys,” Rollins said. “They have talent and they hustle. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year.”