What Tim Anderson learned from Jimmy Rollins in White Sox camp

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White Sox prospect Tim Anderson will likely start he season in Class AA. (AP)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The time Tim Anderson spent with Jimmy Rollins was about the timing.

Shortstops as young as the 22-year-old Anderson, the top White Sox hitting prospect, typically want to catch a grounder and fire it as quick as possible, as hard as they can — like it’s a game at the county fair.

Rollins is 37, and hasn’t done that for more than a decade.

“You don’t have to throw a guy out by 15 feet,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can take your time and get yourself set.

“He’s done that. It’s important for him to learn from guys who have done it.”

Anderson did — at least until he was sent to minor-league camp Thursday and became, immediately, the franchise’s most intriguing position player outside the South Side.

“Anything I need I feel like I can go to him,” Anderson said of Rollins. “It’s just one of my options to learn on.”

The two were hardly inseparable — often, their drills were held on different fields — but the former kept his eyes on more than just Rollins’ infield timing.

“It has a major impact,” said Anderson, who went 4-for-14 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs before demoted from his second big-league camp. “He’s an awesome guy and he’s even better off the field.”

Rollins said he hopes to inspire young players in African-American communities the way Rollins does.

“Growing up and watching him and just seeing how he goes about his business — to actually be able to talk to him and go to him with anything I need, or to ask, is just awesome,” he said. “It’s a once-chance-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Or, in Rollins’ case, twice.

In his first full season, 2001, Rollins watched studied under teammate Bobby Abreu. The outfielder’s approach to everyday things, from preparation to performance, informed what would be an All-Star season in Rollins’ rookie year.

“When I was around, I watched everything: Who did what? Is that something I can incorporate into my game plan?” said Rollins, signed in February to help bridge the gap to Anderson. “Just listen to them. Ear-hustlin’.

“It’s good to be here. You see how close or how far you are, and what you need to do.”

Rollins still marvels at Anderson’s background — “That’s not even rare; that’s unheard of,” he said — which started with basketball as a first love. Anderson didn’t play baseball in his freshman or sophomore season of high school. He wasn’t drafted after his first year of junior college — and was then taken in the first round after his second.

“He has confidence,” Rollins said. “That part reminds me of myself. You know what you can do, and you should believe in what you can do.”

Rollins will start the season at the big-league level, though manager Robin Ventura said he’ll monitor how many games he plays. He’s noticed, even in spring, how Rollins looks fresher after an off day.

“That’s just Father Time,” Ventura said. “It has nothing to do with his mindset or anything else.”

Anderson’s next opportunity will likely be at Class AAA Charlotte, one step away from his big-league debut.

“They like him here. He has a bright future,” Rollins said. “He has some pop, which is good. Just continue to polish himself defensively and in the field — footwork, turning double plays and making sure he turns the makes the routine plays over and over.

“I wish I had a chance to work with him more, just to actually see him.”

He’s willing to help from afar, too.

“He has my number, though,” Rollins said. “Whenever he needs help, he can always call.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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