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40 in 40: David Rollins

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A quiet man, an anonymous bullpen arm, a dream backed by prayer. Texas forever.

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The Baseball Prospectus 2016 Annual, the Book of Record for the upcoming baseball season, written and edited in part by Lookout Landing writers, exhaustive tome of immeasurable depth, humor, and insight, has this to say about David Rollins:

"A Rule 5 pick from the Astros, David Rollins followed a fine spring by being sentenced to 80 days of writing "Stanozolol" on lined paper. The M's stuck with him and he'll fight for a role in this year's pen."

That could, theoretically, be about it for this post. Rollins is a quiet man, and the majority of writing about him is focused on the last year. He first caught the attention of Mariner fans with a strong spring training. But, just as it seemed he was ready to parlay the odd status of a Rule 5 draft pick into his first full year in the majors that Stanozolol suspension came down. Rollins was fungible, and we easily forgot about him. The Mariners were forecast to be the best team in the American League, and the loss of a fringe bullpen arm wasn't anything to focus on.

David Rollins is a quiet man. From the detached perspective of the internet he appears very much to embody many of the personality tenants that a strong Southern Baptist upbringing encourages: He says thank you, ceaselessly. Of the small portion of Rollins' tweets that are not retweets, the majority are him responding to words of encouragement with a short phrase of simple thanks. When news of his suspension came down Rollins did his best to "man up" and not shy away from the news:

"It was a mistake on my part. It was very bad judgment by myself, and I've been regretting it ever since. It's been tough for me and my family, and I just want to apologize to my fans, my family, the Seattle organization and everybody else that I've disappointed. I deeply regret what I did."

Rollins appears, by all the information I could find, to be a kind, genial man, who has spent the vast majority of his 26 years singularly focused on learning to throw a small white ball as hard and as accurately as he possibly can. Baseball is a cruel vocation in that Rollins' ability to throw that ball in excess of 92 miles per hour is bordering on the very edge of human possibility, but just a tiny fraction of a percentage too far from that edge for us to deem him worthy of much of our attention. He is the 1.005% in a business that affords unimaginable wealth and fame strictly to the 1%.

That reservation of person led to a moment when Rollins showed a bit of what makes him go, without saying a word. On July 4th of last year, with his suspension served, and the Mariners' bullpen a ruinous crater, Rollins made his major league debut in Oakland. He threw a scoreless, one-two-three inning. Twelve pitches that justified a lifetime of work. Afterwards Rollins expressed his joy by first of all expressing his thanks, and then retweeting thirty-eight messages of congratulations. Thirty-eight messages that meant nothing to anyone on twitter, except for the window they provided into Rollins' sense of accomplishment. It was the height of bad, self-focused social media usage, and it was absolutely a night to allow oneself to partake in it.

When staff writer and disaffected world traveler Matthias Ellis attempted to bring Rollins back to earth with a light-hearted crack at Rollins' unfortunate facial hair he was simply acknowledged, and then buried in a tide of retweets:

***

This year Rollins will be battling for the role of Left Handed Reliever Not Named Charlie Furbush. With the Mariners no longer burdened by the quirks of Rule 5 draft picks, there's every possibility that Rollins will start the year in Tacoma. And with his numbers from last year far from special, Rollins faces stiff competition this Spring. To some extent Vidal Nuno, Mike Montgomery, and even James Paxton are more experienced and/or more talented than Rollins.

2016 will most likely be months of rain delays at Cheney, unmemorable relief appearances in Colorado Springs, two sentence cliches, a longing for the heat of Texas and home, and a quiet, steady resolve. A quiet man of spectacular ability, just below the level of our full appreciation, trying to bridge the gap between him and success.