Jimmy Rollins talks Derek Jeter injury
One year after calf issues tormented Rollins for virtually the entire 2010 season, he told ESPN.com: "The best advice I can give Derek is, 'You're going to get healed in the offseason.' "
The best advice I can give Derek is, 'You're going to get healed in the offseason.'” -- Jimmy Rollins on Derek Jeter's injury
"I don't even think about my calf injury anymore," Rollins says now, 14 months after he suffered a Grade 2 strain of his calf while running simple wind sprints before a game last April. "But all last year? That was No. 1 -- before anything, before I stretched, before I hit, before I looked at who was pitching. It was, 'How's my calf?' "
Rollins strained his right calf muscle before the Philadelphia Phillies' 2010 home opener in April, sat out 35 days, came back in May, strained the calf muscle again three days later and then missed another month. It wasn't until November and December, when he was able to allow the injury to heal fully, he said, that the discomfort went away.
Rollins conceded that because his injury was a Grade 2 strain -- slightly more serious than Jeter's Grade 1 sprain -- "he's in better shape than I was."
Nevertheless, Rollins said the one thing his calf-injury nightmare taught him was that with calf injuries, the more cautious you are, the better.
"When you think you're good, you're not even close," he said. "Still take more time. ... No matter what your mind thinks, your muscles don't speak English."
Rollins sat out more than a month after the original injury, then went out on a rehab assignment and thought he felt good enough to play -- only to learn quickly he was wrong about that.
"I started playing when I thought I could move around, with some pain but not feeling it was like it was 'injured' still," he said. "But as soon as I came back, by the third day, I re-pulled it. And I had been running, sprinting. I don't think I stole a base down there (on his rehab assignment). But I made some good plays going in the hole and things of that nature. And then I strained it (a second time) on a single, just getting out of the box.
"I didn't even have to push it. It was just a clean single to right-center. And three steps out of the box, it just popped."
Rollins then shut himself down for several more weeks before gradually easing himself back into the lineup. But as a shortstop, he couldn't get the injury out of his head after that. And he predicted Jeter might have to live with the same problem.
"Even when he does get back, he'll think he can go out there and play. But you have to deal with the mental part of it, not just the physical part," Rollins said. "And there's still going to be a part of him that's going to remember that feeling of what that calf felt like when he got hurt. You're always searching for it, because you don't want to do it again."
Rollins said calf injuries are particularly tough to deal with for a shortstop.
"You've got to be explosive to play shortstop," he said. "It's 1-2-dive, or 1-2-throw. And when your calf is bothering you, you don't have that. ... At the end, most of it, for me, was not, 'Do I think I'm going to go out there and get hurt again?' It's, 'I can't go get that ball in the hole right now. I can't go up the middle and make my spin throws like that. I can't steal a base.' "
That, he said, was the most frustrating part of all. And when did he stop thinking that way?
"The offseason," he said again. "That's when I stopped worrying about it. Finally."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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