Phillies get Rollins back in lineup

Phillies get Rollins back in lineup

PHILADELPHIA -- For the first time in more than a month, Jimmy Rollins took his customary spot at shortstop for the Phillies. His spot in Monday's lineup, though, was a little less ordinary.

Rollins, who was activated off the disabled list after missing 29 games with a strained right calf, hit third for Philadelphia against Pittsburgh at Citizens Bank Park. Second baseman Chase Utley was scratched with flu-like symptoms.

But the return of the All-Star shortstop, who injured the leg during pregame warmups before the home opener April 12, is a significant addition for the first-place Phils. Wilson Valdez, who started 11 games and hit .231 with five RBIs, was designated for assignment to make room for Rollins.

Rollins said he felt good to be back, even if he wasn't expecting Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to leave his name out of the leadoff spot.

"I thought I was going to be like seventh or something today," Rollins said. "He threw me right in the fire."

A crowd gathered behind Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin as he wrote out the lineup card hanging in the clubhouse before Monday's game. When Shane Victorino's name was drawn into the leadoff spot, there was a momentary pause.

But Rollins' name wasn't far behind. He batted third for the 34th time in his career, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. His RBI came on a groundout in the first inning of the Phils' 12-2 rout of the Pirates.

"I'm glad I got the first at-bat out of the way with a runner on third," Rollins said. "I was like, 'This is a good situation.' I got a groundball and that pressure's off. I couldn't have broken in better."

Manager Charlie Manuel gave no specific reason as to why Rollins was put in the No. 3 hole in his first game back. But he was confident in Rollins' ability to pick up where he left off.

"He knows his swing and everything," Manuel said. "He was ready."

Rollins played in one Minor League rehab game for Class A Advanced Clearwater on Saturday, going 0-for-3, plus a few extended Spring Training games.

"He got some at-bats and faced live pitching," Manuel said. "He played two games as far as hitting. He's going to hit."

The initial concern for Rollins, Manuel said, will be how his leg responds to aggressive baserunning.

"The biggest thing I'm concerned about Jimmy is if he's ready to run, as far as getting him on and letting him steal and stuff like that," Manuel said. "But he's been running and he feels good, like he's ready to go. He said his leg feels good, but I don't know how strong it is as far as getting breaks and leads and running."

The Phillies went 17-12 in Rollins' absence, and entered Monday leading the National League in average, slugging percentage and runs scored.

Nonetheless, Rollins, who was batting .391 before the injury, is a big factor in the cohesion of Philadelphia's lineup. Victorino did an admirable job filling in, batting .296 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 28 games at the leadoff spot.

"When I get well, I'm going to be a leadoff hitter, that's my job," Rollins said.

Manuel was also complimentary of the work the 31-year-old Valdez did for the Phils, particularly over the past weekend.

"Valdez definitely helped us win the game [Sunday] night, defensively," Manuel said. "And the last two or three games, he's come up with some big hits at the bottom of our lineup. That's what it takes when guys get hurt."

The Phillies will have 10 days to either trade, release or put Valdez on waivers.

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.