Phillies’ Rollins controversy grows more intense

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was calm, cool and composed. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. couldn’t have been more livid.

Both were responding to an ESPN.com report that claimed there are some in the organization who want Rollins to be a better leader through his work habits. The website said that a trade was possible.

After morning batting practice before Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Rollins said he had heard about the report.

“I have a whole bunch of friends who are calling me or e-mailing me and asking what is going on,” Rollins said.

Rollins, who has a full no-trade clause, was relaxed as he discussed the matter and did not seem irritated for one simple reason.

“Because they can’t trade me,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”

Amaro was more outspoken on the subject.

“It’s absolutely silly … Jimmy Rollins is our shortstop,” Amaro said. “One of the ways we’re going to be able to win is with Jimmy being Jimmy. In fact, those are the kinds of articles that get thrown out there: Not only are they a distraction, they’re dangerous and they’re untrue.”

Rollins will be paid $11 million this year. His option in 2015 will be guaranteed for $11 million if he has 434 plate appearances this year and does not end the season on the disabled list.

When asked if the Phillies reached out to him to discuss the ESPN report, Rollins smiled and said, “maybe, maybe not.”

Amaro was asked if he would discuss the matter with Rollins. “If we do, it’s not for public knowledge,” he said.

Rollins had been benched in the past by his former manager, Charlie Manuel, for a perceived lack of hustle.

In his first full season as Phillies manager, Ryne Sandberg did not wait long to send a message. He sat Rollins in three straight Grapefruit League games last week.

Like many of his teammates, Rollins is having a difficult time at the plate this spring. Rollins went 1-for-4 against Toronto and is hitting .115 (3-for-26).

Rollins, 35, is coming off a subpar season. He batted .252 with six home runs, 39 RBI and a .318 on-base percentage in 2013.

The shortstop was asked if there is a perception that he is being picked on because he is coming off a bad season.

“Am I coming off a bad year? Yes,” he said. “That part is true.”

Amaro, didn’t hesitate when asked if Rollins needs to be a better leader.

“I don’t have any issue at all with Jimmy,” Amaro said.

Sandberg said after the 11-6 loss to Toronto that the Rollins situation would not affect his team. “No, there is no distraction there,” he said. “So that is a non-issue.”

The Phillies deny they want to trade Rollins, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t budge if he agreed to lift his no-trade clause.

Rollins has said that one of his goals is to become the Phillies’ career hits leader. He enters the season with 2,175 hits, 59 behind Mike Schmidt’s team record of 2,234.

Still, despite all the apparent turmoil this spring, Rollins has high expectations. “I am looking forward to a great year,” he said.

So is Amaro.

“Jimmy is our shortstop,” Amaro said. “We plan on him being our shortstop. We hope to win another championship with him — at least one.”

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