In his first comments of the spring Tuesday, Jimmy Rollins complimented the Washington Nationals for being an exciting and talented team, but pointedly stopped short of saying they were the team to beat in the National League East. For the record, Rollins also described the Atlanta Braves as an exciting and talented club.

But Rollins made it clear that he believes his Phillies can return to the top spot in the division after seeing their run of five straight titles come to an end in 2012. The Nats won the division with a major-league best 98 wins. Atlanta was second with 94 wins. The Phils, hit hard by injury, made a second-half run but finished 17 games back at 81-81.

“If we play good baseball, we’ll win the division,” said Rollins, who turned 34 in the offseason.

“The mindset is different this year. We had a great year in 2011 and last year we came in with a quarter of the team, honestly. That’s tough to do. We’re a complete team now. We’re not going out there with role players so to speak. We’re going out there with everyday players.

“We just needed to fill a couple of holes and get other guys healthy. As you can see, I’m nice and calm. Last year, everybody was uncertain. This year, it’s a lot more certain.”

Rollins touched on a number of topics in a wide-ranging interview. He endorsed Cole Hamels for the opening-day start (manager Charlie Manuel has yet to announce who will get the nod), noted that Chase Utley’s legs are stronger, and said he’d be willing to move out of the leadoff hole if that’s what Manuel wanted. Later, Manuel said he was sticking with Rollins as his leadoff man.