LOS ANGELES - Charlie Manuel views himself as a player's manager, someone who views communication as an essential part of an oligarchy. So before he posted the lineup card on the wall of the visitors' clubhouse at Dodger Stadium yesterday, he called his leadoff hitter into his office for a chat.
With Jimmy Rollins mired in a 10-for-64 slump that had dropped his batting average from a season-high of .240 to .217, the lowest point it has been since May 20, Manuel decided to drop the shortstop out of his customary spot at the top of the order.
Instead, Rollins hit sixth for the first time this season and the 25th time in his 9-plus years in the majors. Rollins went 2-for-4 in the Phillies' 7-2 victory, and boosted his average to .222.
"Jimmy Rollins is still my leadoff hitter," Manuel told reporters before the game. "I still have confidence in him. When I think about it - everything about it - he's our leadoff hitter. When I do things sometimes with him, every now and then I'll hit him third or fifth because I look for balance in our line-up, especially against lefthanded pitchers. But today I just wanted to move him there for a change of scenery and have a switch-hitter behind [Raul] Ibanez where it's a righthanded hitter on a lefty, and just kind of move him out of the one-hole today. See if I can get him going or something."
For about 3 weeks, Rollins appeared to have rediscovered his swing. From April 27 to May 22, he hit .291 with 11 RBI and 19 runs in 23 games, raising his average from .162 to .240. But he entered last night 0-for-12 in the first three games of the series against the Dodgers and 4-for-27 on this West Coast swing.
Perhaps most critical have been his struggles with runners in scoring position. Rollins entered last night hitting just .207 (12-for-58) with runners in scoring position and .176 (6-for-34) with two outs and runners in scoring position. In the Phillies' 4-3 loss to the Dodgers Friday night, he flew out with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, lined out with runners on first and second and one out in the fourth, and grounded out with runners on second and third and two outs in the second.
Last night, he was 1-for-1 with runners in scoring position.
Rollins disagreed with the notion that he has been struggling with his timing. "The ball is on the barrel [of the bat]," Rollins said.
Manuel said he does not know how long he will keep Rollins out of the leadoff spot. He batted Rollins fifth in three games in May, during which Rollins went 3-for-11 with a home run and three RBI.
"I'll just kind of see how it goes day to day," Manuel said. "He shows signs every now and then. The other night in San Diego he hit every ball on the ground, and since we've been here [in Los Angeles], he's hit a lot of balls in the air. He's just having a hard time finding his swing."
Rollins downplayed the move, saying, "Charlie's made a number of moves before. I've hit third, I've hit fifth. I don't see what's the big deal, besides you [reporters] wanting to write about it."
As he ran onto the field for the Phillies' pregame stretch, he turned to reporters and said, "You're always a leadoff hitter. No matter where you are."
Since optioning outfielder John Mayberry Jr. to the minor leagues last Monday, the Phillies have been playing with four bench players on their roster, one fewer than they have used for most of the last year-and-a-half.
So the absence of lefthanded slugger Matt Stairs, who missed last night's game in order to attend his daughter's high school graduation, left them with even fewer options. Nevertheless, Manuel still thinks the team is best served carrying an extra relief pitcher, thanks to the presence of young starters Antonio Bastardo and J.A. Happ and the potential need to use the bullpen for a considerable amount of innings.
"We've got Happ and Bastardo in our rotation, and experiencewise, both of them are real young," Manuel said. "The fact of where we are at, I feel like the pitcher is probably more important to us than the position player."
The Phillies were forced to bat righthander Chad Durbin to lead off the top of the 12th inning in Saturday's 3-2 loss, having already used Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Chris Coste and Jimmy Rollins. Dobbs pinch-hit for catcher Carlos Ruiz during the seventh and popped out, but Stairs followed with a two-run base hit that gave the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Coste then took Ruiz' place behind the plate, and Rollins pinch-hit with the bases empty and two outs in the ninth before remaining in the game at shortstop.
The Dodgers, who carry five bench players, sent reliever Corey Wade to the plate with two outs and none on in the bottom of the 11th, although backup catcher Brad Ausmus was still available.
"The only way we can win the game is when you get a chance, to try to go for it," Manuel said. "But yeah, when you lose two players like that, you all of a sudden become short off the bench."
Shane Victorino said he suffered no ill effects in his return from a hip injury that had sidelined him for two games. He played all 12 innings of the Phillies' loss on Saturday, going 0-for-5. Victorino had been hitting .410 in the 15 games leading up to the injury, which occurred when he rounded first base on a first-inning double Wednesday against the Padres.
"It's fine," he said. *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.