Rollins offers insight, no predictions

Rollins offers insight, no predictions

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jimmy Rollins said he has stashed his Magic 8 Ball somewhere, maybe in the back of his locker or somewhere deep in his attic.

But that does not mean Rollins, who in previous years has offered some bold and often spot-on predictions about the upcoming season, can't offer his insight about the Phillies' 2010 season.

In fact, no other Phillies player might be more qualified. He made his Phillies debut in 2000, easily making him the longest-tenured Phillie. He has been a World Series champion, National League MVP, three-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and a one-time Silver Slugger winner. He is the offensive catalyst and a sure-handed defender. He is a team leader.

Rollins recently answered 10 questions about the upcoming season. Here is what he said:

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MLB.com: You already knew Roy Halladay was good, but now that you've seen him up close, how good is he?

Rollins:I think the ball moves a lot more than I ever thought it did. You're watching it, and you're like, "How are these hitters swinging and missing or taking these balls?" The ball out of his hand looks like it goes from A to B. But when you actually play with him, you see it does a little juggling in between A and B. A little cut here. A little sink this way. Nothing is ever straight, and that's why you see guys up there so indecisive. They're not sure if they should swing. They're like, "There's no way in the world this ball is going to come back and be a strike." And then it's in the catcher's glove and it's, "Wow. That ball actually did." Anytime you have movement like that, it helps, especially when you're 6-foot-6. It makes it that much better. A lot of times, the taller guys just want to overpower you from A to B. You eventually start catching up to those guys. But he understands how to pitch. He really understands how to pitch.

MLB.com: Is there anything you've learned about him that you didn't know?

Rollins:I never really knew much about him. I knew him from the Nike trips. But from a baseball perspective, he works hard. He's good. He's really good. I haven't seen any surprises.

MLB.com: From what you've seen from Cole Hamels this spring, why do you think he will bounce back from a disappointing 2009?

Rollins:He's willing to listen and learn, and that's very big for him. He's had success all the way up until last year pretty much. Listening and learning wasn't in his repertoire. It was like, this works and it's always worked so it's going to continue to work. He wasn't really willing to make adjustments. After last year he's willing to make adjustments. He's throwing a cutter. He's throwing his curveball. He's using both sides of the plate with different pitches, instead of changeup away, fastball away and in, changeup away, fastball in and away. Now he's throwing a cutter and a curveball. He's learned. Also he has a bigger glove so it will be harder to pick up on his tendencies, things that a couple teams in our division definitely picked up on. No matter how much you told him it was like, "No, that's not it." Yeah, that is it, Cole. When he's able to hide the ball better and use the different sides of the plate with different pitches, you're pretty much in line for success. But first of all, Roy is going to push him.

SHAPING UP THE SCHEDULE
Early schedule
The Phillies just spent seven weeks in Clearwater, Fla., for Spring Training, but they won't be home much in April. They play 15 road games and just seven home games the first month of the season, including a nine-game road trip through Altanta, Arizona and San Francisco.

They open the season with a six-game road trip through Washington and Houston. They return home for a six-game homestand against the Nationals and Marlins before beginning their nine-game trip.

Interleague Play
The Phillies host the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park on May 21-23. They also host the Twins (June 18-20) and Indians (June 22-24). They visit the Red Sox at Fenway Park (June 11-13), the Yankees at Yankee Stadium (June 15-17) and Blue Jays (June 25-27).

Key home dates:
May 21-23 It's always a packed house when the Red Sox visit. And depending how things go early in the season, it could be touted as a potential World Series preview.
Aug. 10-12 August can be a bit sluggish, but this series won't be. The Phillies and Dodgers have faced each other in the previous two NL Championship Series, with the Phillies winning both of them. And much like the Red Sox, depending how things go, it could have fans talking about another NLCS matchup.
Sept. 17-26 The Phillies hope to be in position during this nine-game homestand against the Nationals, Braves and Mets to clinch their fourth consecutive NL East championship.

MLB.com: If Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero bounce back like the team hopes, do you like this bullpen?

Rollins: Oh, we're solid. We've got our left-handed specialist back. You know how good J.C. is. If Brad is back like he was, we've seen how good he can be.

MLB.com:There are seven current or former All-Stars in this lineup. Is this the best lineup you've been a part of?

Rollins: Hopefully it's going to be good. We'll see.

MLB.com: If you had to pick one player to have a breakout year or a career year, who would it be?

Rollins:It doesn't matter. You can pick one for me and I'll say that's who it is. Hopefully one through nine (in the lineup) and one through five (in the rotation), you know what I mean? And that can happen. Everybody goes off and it's like, wow. That would be real scary. It would be the perfect year if we ultimately won the World Series. But if we all did that it's like, let's just all retire. What more can we do?

MLB.com: What do you think is the biggest challenge in winning two World Series in three years?

Rollins:Win. Just win. Stay healthy and win. It doesn't get any more difficult than that. It doesn't get any simpler than that. You start doing other stuff, you find ways to lose games.

MLB.com: How much motivation is last year's World Series loss?

Rollins:Motivation? Winning the World Series, losing the World Series, it's definitely different. But if you come in needing to lose a World Series to motivate you ... I don't know. I'm not sure how much motivation it is. Maybe determination to finish the season, but I don't know if motivation is the right term.

MLB.com: Do you think about the team's place in history if you win three straight NL pennants and two World Series in three years?

Rollins:That will be determined when we're all done. I don't worry about history, except for Chase (Utley) and I breaking the double-play record.

MLB.com: Who is the biggest threat in the National League East?

Rollins:I don't know. It's hard to say. We haven't played the Marlins. We haven't played the Nationals. We haven't played the Mets. But the Braves are looking pretty good again. They've got the young boy (outfielder Jason Heyward). They've got their pitching. Our division is always tough. It always plays out where it's like three teams just right around each other, pushing and pulling. It's going to be fun. There are no cupcakes in this division.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.