Rollins says he can still thrive in Major Leagues

Giants infielder accepts utility role, is ready to learn new positions

Rollins says he can still thrive in Major Leagues

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmy Rollins knows the first rule about quitting the game you love.

"I've been told, 'Make them take the uniform off your back,'" Rollins said Wednesday.

The numbers -- Rollins' age as well as his statistics -- suggest that he should consider exchanging his baseball jersey for a golf shirt, a ski parka or a tank top suitable for poolside wear. But Rollins isn't ready to retire. He believes he still can thrive in the Major Leagues, albeit in a utility role. The 38-year-old will receive a chance to prove himself during Spring Training with the Giants, whose position players report to big league camp Thursday, one day before Friday's initial full-squad workout.

"I've always had that confidence and belief in myself and that will never change until I just can't do it anymore," Rollins said after an informal workout at Scottsdale Stadium. "And even then, I'll probably still think I can."

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As a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove award winner and 2007 National League Most Valuable Player, Rollins established himself as an elite performer with the Phillies from 2000-2014. In doing so, Rollins sustained the hallowed tradition of Encinal High School, across the bay from San Francisco in Alameda, where Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell and 20-game winner Dontrelle Willis also developed.

Then the Phillies traded Rollins to the Dodgers, for whom he batted .224 in 144 games in 2015. Rollins became a free agent and joined the White Sox, who released him last June 15 after he hit .221 in 41 games.

Rollins made the most of the early start to his offseason. He returned to his Tampa home and did what many ballplayers do in their spare time: play golf, fish and take the kids to and from school. He observed the Fourth of July out of a baseball uniform for the first time since he was 16, and provided postseason commentary for TBS.

Rollins, who has played exclusively shortstop throughout his 2,275-game Major League career with the exception of one inning, realizes that he must demonstrate aptitude at second and third base to have a chance at earning a spot on the Giants' bench. The notion of anybody replacing Brandon Crawford at shortstop is unthinkable.

"We're going to move him around as much as we can," manager Bruce Bochy said of Rollins. The switch-hitter will face competition from Kelby Tomlinson and Gordon Beckham, who are accustomed to playing multiple positions.

Rollins already has completed the most essential part of his transition: the mental adjustment. He has accepted the fact that, barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance, he'll never again be an everyday player.

"Watching all these 20-something-year-olds run around like I used to with this boundless energy, it's like, you know what? Maybe it's for them to go out there and play every day and for me to play when I get an opportunity," Rollins said.

"It's the only way the role works -- if the player embraces it," Bochy said. "For Jimmy to say that, that's part of the hurdle you have to get over, especially when you look at a guy with his career. You're talking about one of the best shortstops in our era."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.