Rollins Is Benched Again, Still the Leadoff Hitter
He had dropped him in the lineup twice.
But none of those events shook Rollins from the longest slump of his career. He entered tonight’s series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field hitting just .211 with a .254 on-base percentage and a .328 slugging percentage. He had hit just .125 (7-for-56) in 13 games since Manuel dropped Rollins to sixth in the lineup for two games earlier this month against the Dodgers and Mets.
So Manuel is trying again. He has benched Rollins for the fourth time this season.
This time for at least two games.
“I’m going to give Jimmy a rest,” Manuel said. “In the meantime, I want him to sit down. I want him to kind of get away. I told him if he didn’t want to, he doesn’t have to take BP. I want him just to get away for a couple days and sit and watch and hopefully just relax.
“I’ve been noticing now for a while that Jimmy, he’s trying to do things instead of being relaxed. He’s definitely thinking about helping our team. I think that’s bothered him. I think he sees something during a game where he thinks, ‘Now is a good time to help our team,’ and all of a sudden he’s not getting it done and that makes it worse for him. It’s just like (Wednesday) night. He hit a ball to right field about as hard as he could hit it and a guy was standing there directly in front of him. But then he’s dribbled some balls. He’s popped balls up. He’s struck out on some pitches. I think it’s time to sit him. He’s starting to think about it a lot.”
Rollins declined comment before the game.
But it would seem to make sense to keep Shane Victorino in the leadoff spot until Rollins starts hitting again. Victorino entered Thursday’s game with a .371 on-base percentage. Of 45 leadoff hitters this season, Victorino’s OBP would rank 11th.
Rollins, who has a .237 OBP in the leadoff spot, is last.
But that won’t happen because Manuel said whenever Rollins comes back he is his leadoff hitter.
“I think he’s the leadoff hitter,” Manuel said of Rollins. “He is our leadoff hitter. … To me, we’ve got to get Jimmy right. That’s the whole purpose of sitting him. I don’t see moving him around in the lineup helping him one bit at all if you want to know the truth. I don’t understand that. I don’t see it. I’ve been around him for about five years and he is our leadoff hitter.”
Maybe Manuel doesn’t want to give Rollins a double whammy: bench him and drop him in the lineup. Maybe he thinks dropping Rollins in the lineup would kill his confidence. I’m not sure. But if Rollins continues to hit like he has, he only will hurt the team hitting leadoff.
Manuel must think the rest will do Rollins more good than hitting him fifth of sixth. Time will tell. But one thing is certain: they need Rollins to start hitting again in the worst way possible.