06/25/09 11:50 PM ET
Slumping Rollins to sit at least two games
Manuel feels Phils shortstop is pressing, wants him to relax
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
He had dropped him in the lineup twice.
None of those events shook Rollins from the longest slump of his career. He entered Thursday's series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field hitting just .211 with a .254 on-base percentage and a .328 slugging percentage. Rollins 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 took another step Thursday. He benched Rollins again.
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 [batting practice]. I want him just to get away for a couple days and sit and watch and hopefully just relax."
Manuel called Rollins into his office Thursday afternoon and spoke with him for about 10 minutes. Rollins declined comment before and after the game, but he did not appear upset as he relaxed and joked with teammates before the Phils' 10-4 loss to the Rays.
"I've been noticing now for a while that Jimmy, he's trying to do things instead of being relaxed," Manuel said. "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."
FanGraphs, a sabermetric-based Web site, shows that of the balls Rollins has put in play, he has hit line drives in 16.5 percent of his at-bats, which is the lowest percentage of his career. He also has hit infield fly balls 14.4 percent of the time, which is the highest percentage of his career.
In other words, Rollins is not hitting the ball as hard as he has in the past.
But where will Rollins hit when Manuel puts him back in the lineup? It might 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.
"I think he's the leadoff hitter," Manuel said. "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."
So Rollins is definitely back in the top spot?
"More than likely, yeah," Manuel said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.