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Slumping Rollins dropped to fifth spot

Slumping Rollins dropped to fifth spot

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PHILADELPHIA -- Jimmy Rollins is a leadoff hitter, no matter what the lineup card said Tuesday.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel does not dispute this. Rollins is his leadoff hitter. But with Rollins struggling to get on base through the Phillies' first 29 games, he hit him fifth Tuesday against the Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. Shane Victorino moved into the top spot for the fourth time this season.

On Tuesday, Rollins went 1-or-3 with one walk and one RBI in the 5-3 victory, hitting a few balls hard.

"Jimmy swung the bat good," Manuel said.

Rollins might or might not be back in the leadoff spot Wednesday, although Manuel hinted he might keep his lineup the same against Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf.

"We won the game, so we'll see," Manuel said. "You don't throw the winning ticket away, do you?"

But Rollins, who entered the night hitting .195 with a .231 on-base percentage (his .218 on-base percentage as a leadoff hitter ranks last in baseball), said the leadoff spot is where he belongs, and ultimately that is where he will be.

"I don't see where else I would hit in the lineup," Rollins said. "Today I'm batting fifth. I'm a leadoff hitter. That's what I do. It doesn't matter what the numbers say. I'm going to produce. Pretty much, especially in this lineup with all the power guys, it wouldn't really make sense to keep me in a position down in the lineup where my game is speed when I'm on."

Rollins has been in stretches like this before. He hit .155 in a 20-game span in August 2005, and followed that with a franchise-record 36-game hitting streak.

"I'll bat wherever," Rollins said. "One, two, are probably the funnest positions to be in. Whether I'm first or Shane is first. But ultimately leadoff is the most fun. You're the first one through. No one is in front of you. You're getting on. You steal. You make things happen."

But Rollins has scored just 14 runs this season, which ranks sixth on the team behind Jayson Werth (25), Victorino (24), Raul Ibanez (24), Chase Utley (23) and Ryan Howard (19). He also has one stolen base in three attempts and has walked just five times.

"Walks? What are those?" Rollins said. "Look at my career. Honestly. Those are things that happen to come if they're not throwing strikes. I'm in a position where -- obviously it's important for me to get on base -- but they're not going to pitch around me. Some situations, maybe. But most of the time they're not going to pitch me carefully when you have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and the new power in Raul Ibanez."

Rollins said last month that he hadn't been seeing the ball well.

"I'm seeing the ball well," he said. "I'm seeing the ball very well. That's definitely not an issue."

Then why hasn't he been able to get on track?

"If I knew that, you wouldn't have to ask that question," he said.

Manuel hopes a change of pace can shake Rollins from his funk.

"I just wanted to give him a different look," Manuel said. "I just wanted to put him in a different place. I just wanted to mix it up.

"Whether he realizes it or not, I think he starts trying a little too hard. And that's natural. It's what you do. ... The more you struggle, the worse it gets and the bigger hole you dig for yourself. It can become a head game. But at the same time, in Jimmy's case, I think he just has to find his swing. He's confident. He has a lot of self-confidence. He knows that it's just a matter of time before he gets it. I think that's what's more frustrating for him. He thinks that he should be able to come out of it real quick."

The Phillies hope he does. Rollins is a leadoff hitter, and that's exactly where he said he wants to be.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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