Rollins was asked by the Philadelphia Daily News on Monday about the Phillies' offensive struggles this spring and responded "who cares" because the games don't count. That story appeared Tuesday, the first day he was benched. He was penciled into the lineup, and then his name was whited out. He also was left out of the lineup for Grapefruit League games Wednesday and Thursday.
Sandberg said Rollins' not playing was unrelated to the comment. The manager said he wanted to evaluate 24-year-old shortstop Freddy Galvis over three straight games. He also said he thought Rollins could use a break, according to MLB.com.
However, Sandberg did address the remark with Rollins prior to Thursday's game.
"I wanted him to clarify that, because I wanted to make sure that he cared," Sandberg said, according to MLB.com. "And I wanted to make sure -- I know that everyone else in the locker room cared. So when he told me about what he was talking about, it made sense. ... He was referencing himself and where he's at right now, as far as his offensive stroke and what he's doing on the field. So he was speaking for himself that he wasn't that concerned with it being that early in the spring.
"Jimmy cares. I wanted to make sure that he wasn't speaking for the ballclub with 'who cares?'"
Player and manager are on the same page, Sandberg told MLB.com, even though Rollins did not understand the concern about the remark.
Rollins is listed in Friday's starting lineup.
Earlier Thursday, Rollins said he wasn't sure why he had been benched and that Sandberg hadn't given him an explanation.
Rollins, 35, who has played all 14 of his major league seasons with Philadelphia, said former manager Charlie Manuel always would talk to him when he wasn't in the lineup, but that wasn't the case with Sandberg, who took over for Manuel in August. Rollins called it an "unusual" situation but said he didn't want to speculate on why he wasn't playing.
"Obviously he's upset about something," Rollins said in reference to Sandberg. "That doesn't mean it's over the course of spring training; it could have been one specific incident. But he's upset about it. That's something when he's ready, he'll let me know."
The shortstop was asked whether he thought his "who cares" remark was the reason for his benching, to which he responded "possibly."
"No matter how much you want the orange to taste like an apple, it's an orange. No matter what. No matter how much you want these games to count for something, when April comes around, people aren't talking about this," Rollins said. "People aren't talking about, 'Well, he had a great spring training.' Maybe for the first two days or the first week. But if you start out 0-5, that doesn't matter. If you start out 5-0, that doesn't matter because you're doing it right now."
Rollins had said he expected Sandberg to eventually talk to him because "he's a former player. He knows what it's like to be on this side."
Sandberg also had praised Galvis on Wednesday for the energy he brings to the team and his positive attitude. Asked about Rollins' traits in those areas, Sandberg gave a "no comment."
On Thursday, Sandberg backtracked.
"You know, I would like to have not said that and expand on what Jimmy has to offer and what he means to the ballclub," he said, according to MLB.com.
"[He's] an important part of the team. He's got his role on the team as a veteran player, and he comes into spring training in very good shape every year, and he has again this year. He's got his playing time and at-bats coming up. It's also a long season playing up the middle, so with him and Chase [Utley], I'm careful with their days. I know the grind of a season, and Jimmy plays over 150 games a year. It's the time of the spring right now where he'll have some time down the stretch."
"Everyone is allowed to have their opinion," Rollins had said earlier Thursday. "That doesn't make it right, but he's the manager so he gets to have the last say."
Rollins' $11 million option will vest if he makes 434 plate appearances this season. The shortstop was asked whether he's worried that his recent benching will affect his playing time during the season.
"That hasn't even crossed my mind," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.