As Jimmy Rollins slumped his way through the first half of the 2015 season, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly regularly stated he remained confident in the veteran shortstop, and valued other attributes and quality Rollins brought to the team.
Rollins’ struggles were magnified as Corey Seager, the club’s top prospect, was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City after another successful stretch at the Double-A level. Seager needed some time to adjust with the OKC Dodgers before picking up where he left off with the Drillers.
An injury to Rollins opened the door for Seager in early September, which the 21-year-old shortstop has taken full advantage of. While Mattingly nor team president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has stated as much publicly, perception is Seager is now the club’s starting shortstop.
The strongest indication came when the Dodgers faced the San Francisco Giants and left-handed ace Madison Bumgarner. Mattingly stacked his lineup with right-handed batters, but had Seager at shortstop instead of the switch-hitting Rollins.
Mattingly had a discussion with Rollins over that decision, which the 16-year veteran said he was told of a change moving forward, according Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times:
“They’re going to play him,” Rollins said. “We had a conversation and that’s the way it was said: ‘We’re going to go with the kid. That’s the lineup we feel is best.'”
“Moving forward I’m not sure we’ve made that decision yet,” Mattingly said prior to Friday’s series opener against the San Diego Padres. “Right now I don’t have to make that decision.”
Rollins added his desire is to play, but he accepts the decision and reiterated the emphasis of focusing on what’s best for the team:
“But like I said in my meetings, it isn’t about the name on the back, it’s about winning baseball. So if that’s the lineup that is best for us to win, let’s go with that. “Either you’re selfish or you’re a man of your word,” Rollins said. “If you say it’s about the team, then when the situation isn’t necessarily in your favor, you shouldn’t change. I’m not going to change.”
Entering play on Saturday, Rollins is batting .317/.395/.712 with five home runs, 11 doubles, 12 RBIs and five stolen bases in 57 games (48 starts) since the All-Star break. Meanwhile Seager is batting .316/.404/.516, showing remarkable poise for a player his age.
Seager also set a Los Angeles franchise record by reaching base safely in 21 consecutive starts to begin his career. The proverbial changing of the guard hasn’t created animosity between the two shortstops, as Seager recently spoke highly of Rollins for being a mentor.