One call away: Rollins recounts busy offseason

Lefty reliever has been claimed five times in one month

January 3rd, 2017

CHICAGO -- knows the spiel by heart. It started with the Mariners in November. Someone from the team calls to tell the left-hander that he was put him on waivers and has been claimed by another team. The new team will then call to welcome him to its organization.

In one month, Rollins has gotten the combo of calls five times, including twice apiece by the Rangers and the Cubs, his current club.

"I thought about getting a hat embroidered with all the teams on it -- I thought that would be funny," Rollins said on Tuesday.

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It's not clear if he has set a record for most transactions in a 36-day span, but Rollins is clearly the leader in that category this year. Let's start at the beginning: He spent the 2016 season with the Mariners, who had selected him in the December '14 Rule 5 Draft from the Astros.

On Nov. 18, 2016, the Cubs claimed him off waivers, but four days later, the Rangers selected him off waivers. On Dec. 2, the Phillies claimed Rollins off waivers by the Phillies. 

His time with the Phillies didn't last long. On Dec. 21, the Rangers again selected him off waivers, and two days later, the Cubs claimed the lefty for a second time.

"After the fourth time [a team called], I said to myself, 'I've heard this before,'" Rollins said. "I've had a bunch of moves going on, and it's been a whirlwind, and I'm like, 'Dang, when is it going to stop?' And everyone is asking me when it's going to stop, and I just say, 'It's baseball.'"

The popular lefty, who turned 27 on Dec. 21, spent most of last season with Triple-A Tacoma, going 5-0 with a 3.77 ERA in 37 outings. He struck out 32 and walked six over 45 1/3 innings. Rollins also appeared in 11 games with the Mariners, giving up eight runs in 9 1/3 frames.

Rollins admits to having a few negative thoughts when he first hears that he has been placed on waivers, but he then realizes the moves have been done primarily to open a spot on that team's 40-man roster. It's nothing personal.

"That's the one thing I've stayed positive with is knowing that if I were to get put on waivers, somebody is going to pick me up," he said.

Rollins is cautious when his phone rings.

"Whenever I get a number I don't recognize, I'm like, 'Dang, it's going to be another phone call saying I'm on waivers,'" Rollins said. "It's been kind of funny and kind of hectic at the same time. I'm trying to make light out of it. Somebody said, 'Where are you going to go for Spring Training?' And I said, 'I might just do Spring Training at my house.'"

Even his father, Kevin, has been trying to grasp all of the roster moves.

"He said, 'When's the last day they can put you on waivers?' And I said, 'When I'm done playing baseball, I guess,'" Rollins said.

The southpaw, who lives in the Dallas area, admitted he was looking forward to pitching for the Rangers. Texas pitching coach Doug Brocail was with Rollins at the Double-A level when he converted from a starter to a reliever. They both like to hunt and fish.

"I'm just excited that I still get to play baseball," Rollins said.

Rollins made an impact off the field while with Seattle, too. In 2016, Rollins won the Mariners' Dan Wilson Minor League Community Service Award at the end of the season. He was motivated by the loss of a young cousin, so he visited children's hospitals to try and help kids forget their troubles.

"You go in and see a sick kid and make them smile, whether it's for two minutes, five minutes -- just try to brighten their day and hope they can keep that memory," Rollins said. "I was always big on giving back to kids."

On Wednesday, Rollins will throw his first bullpen of the offseason. Despite all of the roster maneuverings, Rollins has stuck to his workout program.

"I still have some things I need to work on, as everybody does," Rollins said. "This offseason, I'm focusing on coming in, throwing strikes, throwing offspeed pitches for strikes, staying down in the zone and working on getting more ground balls and popups."

And Rollins is excited about going to camp with the defending World Series champion Cubs.

"I watched [Game 7 of the World Series] and saw Mike Montgomery come in and get the ground ball [for the final out], and that was awesome," Rollins said. "Mike was my teammate for a year or so [with the Mariners] -- good dude. I'm excited to see him again."

They'll be reunited in February -- unless Rollins gets another phone call.