No, he’s not your prototypical leadoff hitter. His on-base percentage is below average. He doesn’t work the count enough. He doesn’t walk nearly enough. But anyone who says Jimmy Rollins is not the catalyst of the Phillies’ offense obviously wasn’t watching the last two nights.
You can’t expect Eric Bruntlett to fill Rollins’ custom made spikes, but he went 1-for-10 in two games and made two ugly, costly errors Wednesday night. The Phillies are obviously a much more confident team with Rollins at the top of the lineup. He gives this team its swagger. And in case you forgot, he’s the reigning N.L. MVP. It’s only two games, but the Phillies need Rollins in the lineup and at his best to make the offense jump from dangerous to lethal.
Round 1 of Phillies vs. Mets goes to the home team after a questionable call to end the game that was probably too close to seriously protest. The Phillies need Rollins and the Mets need to find a reliable arm in a very shaky bullpen. Rollins will be back soon, but where is that bullpen arm for the Mets?
Kyle Kendrick needs a few personal tutoring sessions with Jamie Moyer. Moyer teaches young pitchers to try to hit a target whenever they throw a baseball, whether they’re on the mound, in the bullpen or playing catch in the outfield. Kendrick’s location has been off all spring, culminating with six walks in the first two innings of Wednesday’s loss to the Mets. Fortunately, when he does make hitters swing, he’s not giving up big hits and somehow manages to pitch out of jams. More importantly, Kendrick never gets rattled. I still think he can be a solid number three behind Hamels and Myers for years to come.
Expect to see more of catcher Chris Coste as the season progresses. Like John Kruk has pointed out, pitchers love throwing to Coste. He calls a great game, he’s better defensively and he has a knack for clutch hits. For example, when Kendrick was struggling with his control, he was ahead in the count and Carlos Ruiz called for a fastball and set a letter high target. Kendrick, a sinkerballer who works the corners and the knees, has at least three better pitches than that for putting hitters away.
Shane Victorino’s early season struggles can be summed up in two words: Davey Lopes. Nobody embraced Lopes’ instruction in the batter’s box and on the basepaths more than Victorino. Rollins’ ankle injury, while not serious, now puts more pressure on Victorino to make things happen. He looks lost at times without the presence of Lopes, who is recovering from prostate cancer surgery. On the positive side, Victorino’s brilliant defense in centerfield has made his offensive slump more tolerable.
I love the Phillies bullpen. J.C. Romero has yet to give up a run. Neither has Rudy Seanez, who was salvaged off the scrap heap like Romero. Chad Durbin has been solid. Tom Gordon had an awful Opening Day debut and gave up the winning run last night, but he’s still reliable. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge are both healthy. Lefty Steve Kline, another reclamation project, has been signed and could give the Phillies another option from the left side. I can’t figure out why the Mets aren’t taking a chance on guys like these.
Two solid outings and no wins for Adam Eaton. Last year, Eaton somehow managed 10 wins and a .500 record with a 6.29 ERA. Life has a way of evening things out, don’t you think? I’m still in shock but very encouraged by Eaton’s performance thus far.