Rollins Doesn't Back Off Prediction

The Phillies haven't looked like the team to beat in the NL East, but Jimmy Rollins isn't backing off of his pre-season prediction. Even two losses to the Mets haven't soured Rollins on the team's chances.

It was hardly his fault, but shortstop Jimmy Rollins watched the "team to beat" lose another game -- and another three-game series -- Thursday night.

Yet he's as confident as ever.

Rollins still believes the 2-7 Phillies -- off to their worst start in 20 years -- have what it takes to win the National League East.

"Nothing has changed," Rollins said, his chest puffed out and his head up after smacking two homers and knocking in all of the Phillies' runs in a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets at Shea Stadium.

Rollins was referring to his infamous January prognostication that the Phillies would be the "team to beat" in the NL East. But three series into the season, nothing has changed about the disappointing way they've been playing.

They've made fundamental mistakes and costly errors, blown late-inning leads and failed to hit in clutch situations. They're batting .181 with runners in scoring position, and sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are batting a combined .222 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

"It's nine games into the season," Rollins said. "Shoot, if we catch fire, we'll be right where we need to be."

News and Notes:

  • RF Shane Victorino has been told to be aggressive on the bases. But for the second time in nine games, he was thrown out trying to steal second base with slugging 1B Ryan Howard, the reigning National League MVP, at the plate. In the latest case, Victorino made the second out of the first inning against the Mets, and LHP Tom Glavine was able to work around walks to Howard and LF Pat Burrell and get out of the inning.
  • INF Hector Made, a Phillies prospect, received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Made, 22, was acquired last July 26 from the Yankees for C Sal Fasano and was set to open the season with Class A Clearwater. He's a .269 hitter with 16 home runs in 381 career minor league games. Mike Arbuckle, the Phillies' assistant GM for player development, termed the suspension "disappointing."
  • RHP Tom Gordon admitted that the week he missed in spring training to have his balky right arm examined set him back in his preparation for the season. But the 39-year-old closer looked sharp Wednesday night, allowing one hit in a scoreless ninth inning for his first save. Manuel said the Phillies will continue to be judicious about how they use Gordon. They won't ask him to pitch more than one inning, and they'll rarely ask him to pitch more than two consecutive days. "It depends on how he feels," Manuel said. "And he has to really be honest with us."
  • RHP Antonio Alfonseca has emerged as manager Charlie Manuel's top choice as the setup man in the Phillies' work-in-progress bullpen after tossing a clean eighth inning in Wednesday night's 5-2 win against the Mets. Alfonseca has a 2.08 ERA in four appearances. "When I see the game close like that, 5-2, I'm more comfortable on the mound," Alfonseca said. "It's almost like being the closer in the ninth inning."

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