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Rollins embraces challenge at second base

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmy Rollins earned all A's in his continuing education as an infielder Thursday. His healthy attitude complemented his aptitude and adaptability.

Having spent all but one-third of an inning of his 17-year Major League career at shortstop, Rollins furthered his conversion to utility man with a tidy performance at second base in the Giants' 8-6 split-squad loss to the Chicago White Sox.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jimmy Rollins earned all A's in his continuing education as an infielder Thursday. His healthy attitude complemented his aptitude and adaptability.

Having spent all but one-third of an inning of his 17-year Major League career at shortstop, Rollins furthered his conversion to utility man with a tidy performance at second base in the Giants' 8-6 split-squad loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Rollins assisted on four putouts in five innings and particularly distinguished himself when he fielded Peter Bourjos' grounder and made a slick pivot to flip the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, thus starting a second-inning double play.

"He looked like he's been doing it for years," Crawford said. "I think that's saying a lot about his athleticism and willingness to learn a new position after being a shortstop for so long."

A three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and the 2007 recipient of the National League's Most Valuable Player Award, Rollins readily acknowledged that playing second base initially seemed foreign.

"Going to the other side of the field -- the ball's spinning the other way; the coverages are different; I never had to cover first base before," the 38-year-old said. "Those are the things that I need practice at."

Video: CWS@SF: Rollins starts double play at second base

After fielding Omar Narvaez's first-inning grounder, Rollins underhanded the ball to first base, which is acceptable for second basemen. But Rollins looked more at home three innings later after he ranged to his glove side to snare Laury Garcia's bouncer. Rollins employed the quick, almost-sidearm flip that all second basemen must master as he threw to first.

"I was happy, because it made me get over there and set my feet to give a good, firm throw," Rollins said.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Rollins also will be tried at third base to gauge his versatility. But Bochy doesn't want to rush the veteran.

"We don't want to throw too much at him. We have a month here," Bochy said.

Rollins expressed confidence in his ability to handle the hot corner.

"I'm a little more comfortable on that side of the field, just because of the angles," he said.

Rollins has long been comfortable as a leader, a trait he demonstrated with left-hander Matt Moore.

"Between innings, he came up to me a couple of times and said, 'Right there. Stay on them. Keep going at 'em,'" said Moore, the Giants starter who worked 2 2/3 innings against the White Sox. "He's definitely in the game. ... I think that's really cool of him."

Rollins' intangibles could become a factor when Bochy and the rest of San Francisco's braintrust select the team's reserve infielders. Rollins' competitors for a backup role include Kelby Tomlinson, Gordon Beckham, Conor Gillaspie, Aaron Hill and Jae-gyun Hwang.

Rollins has embraced the challenge. Asked if he was enjoying himself, he responded affirmatively.

"As an athlete," he said, "you're always learning something."

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.

San Francisco Giants, Jimmy Rollins