Two minutes before Monday’s 7-4 victory over Washington, the Phillies learned shortstop Jimmy Rollins could not play. He had strained his right calf in a rudimentary pregame warm-up in right field, when rarely anything of importance happens.
Fifteen minutes earlier, Rollins was the final player introduced to a sellout crowd at Citizens Bank Park for the home opener. He jogged onto the field to the loudest ovation.
So when Juan Castro – the only Phillie who had not yet played in 2010 – trotted out to shortstop for the top of the first inning, a hush fell over the crowd of 44,791.
“I think everybody was surprised not to see J-Roll in there,” said rightfielder Jayson Werth, who also left the game with what he called a minor hip injury. “In that situation, I think everyone knows it’s probably pretty serious for him to come out before the game started. It’s unfortunate. But the show goes on.”
It did, eventually. The Phillies (6-1) were held hitless for the first three innings. But as has been the norm in 2010, it doesn’t take much for the potent offense to click.
A Placido Polanco two-run single here, a Chase Utley two-run homer there. Even Castro fueled the five-run fifth inning rally with an RBI double off Nationals starter Jason Marquis. By the end of the fifth, the Phillies had seven runs and the game was all but over thanks to another solid showing by the bullpen.
Cole Hamels lasted 52/3 innings and allowed four runs in an outing that pitching coach Rich Dubee said marked an improvement from his first start. Hamels cut his walks from four the first time against Washington to one on Monday. Dubee said the lefty made mistakes on just two pitches and was pleased with Hamels’ control.
But when two regulars – Rollins and Werth – succumbed to injury, the results on the field were considerably less pressing.
Rollins will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury. The tone of manager Charlie Manuel and Rollins’ teammates said enough: There is concern.
Rollins had departed the ballpark before reporters entered the clubhouse. But Greg Dobbs, who struggled through 2009 while playing through a calf injury, saw Rollins in the clubhouse during the game and could tell the shortstop was dismayed.
“He was like, ‘I can’t believe this is going on,’ ” Dobbs said. “I felt for him. He was extremely frustrated.”
Werth left the game after the fifth with a sore left hip, which he said he injured running out of the batter’s box in the fourth inning. Werth said his removal was more precautionary than anything. He said he expects to miss a few days.
“I don’t think it’s going to be something that lingers or be a big deal,” Werth said.
If anything, Monday was a reminder of how fragile a good thing in baseball can be. The Phillies can match the hot start of the 1993 team with another win Wednesday. The powerful offense wasn’t affected without Rollins against Washington, but if he misses more time, what happens?
“We’ve been doing this for about four years now,” Manuel said. “Just because somebody goes down, we’re going to continue right on playing.”