Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Weight Loss and Whiff Loss

Perhaps the Atkins Diet folks should consider the Phillies for celebrity endorsements. Last week Bobby Abreu showed up at a media event in much better shape than his puffy spring training form of last year. Today, both papers note that new pitcher Eric Milton has dropped 30 pounds in hopes of reducing the stress on his repaired knee. Count those carbs, fellas!

Paul Hagen's short profile of Milton in the Daily News notes that the 28-year-old lefty will bring a variety of storylines to Clearwater next month:

A hardy perennial spring-training story is the one about the accomplished veteran who is trying to resurrect his career by bouncing back from a serious injury.

Another is the one about a player new to the organization and how he adapts to his new surroundings. Add extra points if he's also changing leagues.

And then, of course, there's the one about the player who can be a free agent at the end of the season for the first time, looking at how he might handle the pressure that comes along with that prospect.

Jim Salisbury has the news about Milton's weight loss in the Inquirer and adds that Jimmy Rollins promises, on his dead dog's grave -- yet again -- that he's going to cut down on his strikeouts. The 5-8, 167-pound shortstop whiffed an almost unbelievable 113 times in 2003, his third straight season of 100 or more Ks. Once again Rollins has been tutored in the offseason by former hit machine Tony Gwynn, and this time, reports Salisbury, he "seems sincere in his wish to transform himself into a player who gets on base frequently and creates excitement once he gets there."

Why the change? Well, apparently Rollins finally realized the need to alter his approach in a series with Florida late last season when Ivan Rodriguez and the Marlins kept him flailing at off-speed stuff in fastball situations. (Insert sound of Shallow Center banging his head against wall here.)

The Phils have been on Rollins for, oh, about forever to get him to see the light. With Abreu, Jim Thome, and Pat Burrell comprising the meat of the order, there's no reason for Rollins to be anything but an on-base guy. And it should not have taken something as obvious as opponents' pitching strategies for him to realize this. It sure must be nice to have the kind of job in which ignoring your boss's instructions doesn't get you pink-slipped in about 10 seconds.

Then again, maybe Bowa should just make Rollins drop and give him 20 pushups for every infield popup he hits. Hey, it worked for Willie Mays Hayes.


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