By Mary Cunningham
When legendary Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins was traded to the Dodgers last December there is no way he bargained for the embarrassment his 2015 season has been so far.
Last Tuesday, for the first time in his distinguished 16-year career, Rollins started a game batting ninth.
On Wednesday, the shortstop did not start at all, the third consecutive time the Dodgers have left him out of the lineup against a left-handed pitcher, this time against a pitcher Rollins had tagged for eight hits in 18 at-bats.
The Dodgers’ best prospect, and perhaps the best prospect in baseball, is a shortstop, Corey Seager.
However, with the Dodgers in first place and Seager with 40 games of experience above the double-A level, manager Don Mattingly said that Rollins remains the Dodgers’ regular shortstop.
“I don’t think we need to sit here and rush anybody,” Mattingly said before the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
The Dodgers acquired Rollins in December, hoping the 2007 National League most valuable player would serve as a leadoff hitter, clubhouse leader and sturdy bridge to Seager.
Rollins, 36, is batting .202 as of June 21, the lowest figure among regular major league shortstops, with a .261 on-base percentage and .332 slugging percentage. The Dodgers most often bat him eighth. He has two hits, both singles, and one walk in his last 21 plate appearances.
Rollins said he has made “definitely positive contributions” on defense and in the clubhouse as he works on his offense.
“Two out of three is about what I have now,” he said, “until the offensive side comes.
“We’re all waiting for it. I’m not worried about it. I’d love to see the results, but worrying will never solve anything. I’ll just stay in the cage and get to work.”
Rollins said Mattingly lets him know in advance when he will get a day off. He said Mattingly has had no discussion with him about a reduced role.
Mattingly said there is no platoon at shortstop. Rollins has gotten days off against left-handers because the backup shortstop for now is Enrique Hernandez, who bats right-handed.
Mattingly also said Rollins remains a valuable contributor even when he is not hitting.
“As far as his attitude and what he brings to the table, nothing has changed,” Mattingly said. “I know he’s not happy with the way he is swinging the bat. It hasn’t affected his personality. It hasn’t affected his defense.”
So long as Rollins is healthy and the Dodgers are winning, Mattingly said, why not give Seager more development time, so he can stick in the majors for good once he arrives?
“Look at all the guys they build up,” Mattingly said, “and 95% of them a month or a month and a half later are below-average guys. They get this great big build-up, and then we don’t talk about them any more.”
If Rollins were injured, Mattingly said, then the Dodgers likely would promote Seager rather than acquire a veteran stopgap.
“To me, he’s next in line,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think they’d go out and try to find a shortstop.”
The future is coming, and soon enough. For now, Mattingly said the Dodgers have no plans to push Rollins aside for Seager.
“Everybody knows what is going to happen at some point,” Mattingly said. “The kid is going to be here, and the kid is going to be a great player.”