Only three games into the job, Ryne Sandberg has already identified an opportunity to coach one of his team leaders into a better approach at the plate.
The interim coach as of Friday (following the dismissal of the all time Phillies leader in managerial wins, Charlie Manuel), Ryno got his first win (against the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers) on Sunday and would like to stick around to see many more in the future. His first order of business seems to be coaching his slumping SS Jimmy Rollins into a little different plate approach.
The 34-year-old former National League MVP Rollins is enduring one of his worst seasons in the bigs, batting .248 with an on-base percentage of only .305. This for a top of the lineup guy they expect to clog the bases for their sluggers like Ryan Howard (if healthy and producing) or Domonic Brown (team-leading 27 home runs and 78 RBI through Sunday).
Sandberg is looking to 2014 (note, he is not named full-time manager yet) and sees Rollins as a big part of being a leader on that team. Rollins, who was the subject of trade rumors of late, is inked through 2015 (assuming a health option kicks in).
According to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News (Philly.com), Sandberg is focusing on Rollins as a key performance indicator during the remainder of the season:
“I have good talks with Jimmy,” new manager Ryne Sandberg said on Sunday. “He’s a big piece of the puzzle. That will be my job from here on out, no doubt about it. That goes for everybody. Him in particular, he is a big piece. He’s a good player. That’s a challenge of mine. We’ll stay after that.”
Sandberg got more specific about his approach at the plate:
The other thing is that he gets a little bit pull happy at times. We’ve had conversations about the big hole that’s up the middle, how teams pitch him. A lot of teams, if they pitch him away, there is a big hole up the middle. So something like that, for him, will be a big deal.
And Ryno speaks from experience as a former NL MVP (1984) and as a middle infielder:
I would like him not to focus on hitting home runs. Anytime that I hit a home run, it was an accident. It was a perfect swing that I caught out in front, square up and was just underneath just a little bit.
I’d bet a fair bit of money Sandberg sticks around in 2014 and maybe for a number of years. He knows what he’s talking about, and is seemingly the right guy to rebuild the Phillies sooner than later.