Jimmy Rollins is OK with new place in Dodgers’ lineup
— Jimmy Rollins figured a change was coming.
He wasn’t hitting and the Dodgers weren’t scoring.
So when Rollins was dropped Saturday from the second spot in the lineup to the eighth, he nodded and said he understood.
“I’m OK with it,” Rollins said. “It’s nothing I hadn’t thought of.”
The reconfigured lineup, in which utilityman Justin Turner batted second behind leadoff hitter Joc Pederson, beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-1, at Busch Stadium.
Before scoring their first run of the game in the sixth inning, the Dodgers extended their road scoreless streak to 42 innings, breaking the previous franchise record of 41, set in 1908.
Rollins was 0 for 4, with two strikeouts.
The National League’s most valuable player in 2007 with the Philadelphia Phillies, Rollins went into Saturday with a .210 average.
The 36-year-old shortstop, who was acquired in an off-season trade, batted leadoff in his first 18 starts for the Dodgers. He batted second in his next 23 starts.
Rollins suspected his place in the order could change when Yasiel Puig returned from the disabled list and he was right, as Manager Don Mattingly later confirmed he had similar ideas. When Puig’s stay on the disabled list was extended, Mattingly kept Rollins near the top of the lineup hoping that the three-time All-Star could find his rhythm.
“It hasn’t really happened,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly spoke to Rollins on Friday night about the change. “I just want to be sensitive to how it makes guys feel,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly recalled how in his penultimate season as a player, in 1994, he was removed from the No. 3 spot in the New York Yankees lineup.
“It’s not a great feeling,” Mattingly said.
But Rollins didn’t seem particularly bothered. Mattingly described their conversation as “easy.”
With the switch-hitting Rollins replaced by Turner in the second spot, Mattingly moved Adrian Gonzalez to the third position. Gonzalez had batted cleanup in recent weeks.
Howie Kendrick moved from third to fourth, and was followed by Andre Ethier, Yasmani Grandal and Scott Van Slyke. The switch-hitting Grandal was in his first game back from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
Rollins said he felt better at the plate than his numbers indicated. In the 19 games he played after his average was at a season-low .162, Rollins batted .282 with a couple of home runs and four doubles.
“Some times, like hitters do when they get in trouble, you start thinking and you get caught in between,” Rollins said. “It’s just working through that. It’s taking longer than anyone would like, especially me. But I have an idea, a plan at the plate. It’s a matter of not overthinking it and executing it.”
Pointing to his 15-year track record, Rollins said he’s certain he’ll eventually break out of his slump.
“It doesn’t shake you,” he said. “Being a veteran player, you already have a track record, you’ve already established you can play here. Yes, you still want everybody to know that you can still play here, but you also get that it’s a long season. You can’t get down, you can’t get discouraged.”
Asked whether he has thought he might be finished as a player, Rollins said, “Only on bad days. A bad day is when you have a bad game and your team loses. You have a bad game and your team wins, it’s not. When I say a bad game, you had no idea at the plate and you felt lost.”
How many days like that has he had?
“Maybe one,” he said, smiling.
Regardless of how he performs, Rollins said he recognizes that he’s a place holder at shortstop, as the Dodgers will one day turn over the position to top prospect Corey Seager.
“It’s not a secret, is it?” Rollins said.
Rollins said he hasn’t thought about how his role could change if the Dodgers decide to promote the 21-year-old Seager this season.
“You never know what upper management’s going to do and you can’t even try to guess,” he said. “It’d be foolish to concern yourself with those matters.”
But if Seager is called up from triple-A Oklahoma City, Rollins said he would help him the way Desi Relaford did for him when he was first called up by the Phillies in 2000. Rollins replaced Relaford as the team’s starting shortstop in the final two weeks of the season.
“You have to pay it forward,” Rollins said. “That’s the nature of the game. It’s going to happen.”
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