By Bruce Levine–
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — On his first day at White Sox spring training, shortstop Jimmy Rollins unpacked his Michael Jordan special-brand spikes (only five baseball players were chosen by Jordan for his unique brand) and talked to his new teammates and coaches before hitting the field.READ MORE: Jussie Smollett Trial: Lead Detective In Investigation Explains On Witness Stand How Smollett Went From Victim To Suspect
Going into his 17th season, the 37-year-old Rollins will battle Tyler Saladino for playing time at the most important position on the baseball field.
“This was the place that said, ‘Come in and fight for a position,’” Rollins said Thursday morning, three days after agreeing to a minor league deal with the White Sox in which he’ll make $2 million if he makes the club out of spring training.
“That is what you want to fight for, a starting spot, and I am here.”
The 2007 NL MVP, Rollins said he had offers of major-league contracts from a few teams. Chicago was the only team that said “sign a minor league deal and win a job.” Rollins’ drop to career-lows of a .227 batting average and .643 OPS last season had many doubting he’s capable of a full productive season at the most demanding position in the game. He wants to change that notion.
Known as a great teammate in his career, Rollins should be more of a help than a hindrance to top prospect Tim Anderson and his quest to improve as he looms as the White Sox’s shortstop of the future.
“I will just try to get to know him,” Rollins said. “I have heard all good things — that he can play. I know he is still learning his trade. Whatever he picks up and has to ask, I will try to answer. If I can’t, I won’t lie to him.”READ MORE: Bulls Surprise Kelly College Prep Girls' Basketball Team With Afternoon Tournament
Rollins was told Anderson named him as his hero growing up.
“That is kind of cool,” Rollins said. “Being a hero is pretty awesome. I will talk to him and give him my number. We will go out to dinner and talk about anything.”
Rollins will have to consider his role after the spring if he hasn’t beaten out second-year pro Saladino for the everyday job. Coming into camp, Rollins is open-minded about his role going forward.
“I played third base in 1993,” Rollins said. “I played second base for an inning.”
Former teammate and current White Sox special assistant Jim Thome had high praise for his former Philadelphia buddy.
“I remember what he brought to our ball club,” Thome said. “He was our leader, and he was our catalyst. He was our shortstop. We knew we could count on him. For me, he was just so charismatic. As good as he was in the team meetings, he was just as good as a friend. For me, it was exciting to get him back here where we can be together again. He is that guy now who can help someone like Tim Anderson. He can help Saladino. I think the guys will look to him and they will rely on him. He will be that role model they look up to.”MORE NEWS: CVS Installs Time-Delay Safes At All Illinois Pharmacy Locations To Deter Would-Be Thieves
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.