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News » News analysis: Rollins placed on DL 2008-04-24

News analysis: Rollins placed on DL 2008-04-24

News analysis: Rollins placed on DL 2008-04-24
After more than a week of day-to-day prognoses and a handful of pinch-hitting appearances, Phillies shortstop and 2007 National League Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins was officially placed on the disabled list Sunday.

After he played in all 162 games last season, Rollins is making his first trip to the disabled list in his nine-year major league career. Now, Phillie Phanatics and fantasy owners alike are left to wonder if his ankle sprain is something that'll keep his numbers — and more than likely the entire Phillies lineup — stuck in the starting blocks.

Rollins originally came up lame in the eighth inning of a 5-2 victory over the Mets on April 8. At the time, he was considered day to day. Twelve days and four pinch-hitting appearances later, he was placed on the disabled list with a Grade 1 ankle sprain that was apparently aggravated in his most recent guest spot April 19.

Rollins was off to good start with a .308 batting average, two doubles, two home runs, six runs batted in and two stolen bases. He left the field with little doubt his 2007 numbers — he batted .296 with 30 home runs, 94 RBI, 20 triples, 41 stolen bases and an NL-high 139 runs — were for real.

In an April 21 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Rollins was quoted saying, "I can't continue to go at this rate. My game is based on speed. To hit, you have to use your legs, and I'm only able to use one of them."

The Phillies have said they plan to play it safe this time around, so don't expect him back until he's ready. Reports seem to confirm the ankle injury isn't serious. By forcing Rollins to wait until he's eligible to return, which is May 5, he and his ankle should be 100 percent upon re-entry into the lineup.

Assuming Rollins returns when eligible, he'll have missed 24 consecutive starts. For a player who played every game last season and 154 or more in every season since 2001, the missed time is sure to affect his total statistical accumulation.

Given Rollins' track record of durability, expect him to return at full strength. If his ankle is at all tender, it might take him an extra couple of weeks to start running again, at least as often as he has in the past. He's averaged 43 stolen base attempts in each of the past four years.

Philadelphia is currently plugging Rollins' shortstop position with the 30-year-old Eric Bruntlett. Prior to this season, Bruntlett played sporadically with the Astros, never accumulating more than 138 at-bats in a season. He's known primarily for his glove. All the Phillies are asking of him is to catch whatever comes his way, but he's already committed three errors since replacing Rollins, so even that's in question. However, he has a career .961 fielding percentage, so he should be more than adequate in that capacity.

Bruntlett's hitting just .180 with two extra base hits, but he looks to remain the starter by virtue of the fact the Phillies lack other options. The only other middle infielder on their 40-man roster is 22-year-old Brad Harman, whom the club recalled when it placed Rollins on the disabled list.

Harman was signed as undrafted free agent by the Phils in 2003. The native of Australia isn't considered much of a prospect, though. At advanced Class-A in 2007, he batted .281 with 13 homers and 62 RBI in 448 at-bats. At Double-A Reading, he was hitting .222 with a homer and three RBI. Entering this season, he had a career average of .270 in the minors.

While the Phillies ride out Rollins' absence, fantasy owners have places to turn, and there are short-term options available in many shallow leagues.

After taking the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2004, injuries and inconsistency had derailed A's shortstop Bobby Crosby's career until his fast start this season. Crosby's hitting .310 with two home runs and 15 RBI in April as part of a surprising Athletics lineup. He's been hitting fifth against left-handers.

The Cubs offer shortstop Ryan Theriot (.338 with 14 runs and five steals), although he's currently dealing with lower back pain. If he returns to the lineup quickly, he could provide a good dose of runs and steals while hitting in the two-hole, at least for the short term.

Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo could supply owners a bit of speed while Rollins remains sidelined. He's been heating up recently, hitting .324 with three steals.

Just as the Phillies don't have an All-Star caliber backup, fantasy owners aren't going to replace Rollins' well-rounded numbers with someone from the free-agent pool. A trade might sound tempting, but if Rollins comes back May 5 as expected, owners may regret sacrificing a cornerstone of their fantasy teams for short-term gain.

For better or worse, both the Phillies and fantasy owners probably are batter off simply waiting for "J-Roll" to begin rolling once again.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 24, 2008

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