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Feeling blue: Rollins starts anew with Dodgers

PHOENIX - Jimmy Rollins sat at his corner locker stall and nodded toward one locker designated for Yasiel Puig and another belonging to Clayton Kershaw.

PHOENIX - Jimmy Rollins sat at his corner locker stall and nodded toward one locker designated for Yasiel Puig and another belonging to Clayton Kershaw.

"You've got 66 and 22. Those are the stars," Rollins said, referring to the players by their uniform numbers. "Everybody else falls in behind them. And that's quite OK. You just do your job, and if they do their jobs, they get the headlines."

If there was ever an indication of Rollins' new life with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it's this admission. He's still the leadoff hitter and the starting shortstop, and he still has the swagger that helped make him one of the iconic Phillies during the last 14 years, but he's no longer the center of attention.

"I'm perfectly fine with that," Rollins said. "I'm perfectly happy with that."

Rollins did not want to discuss Philadelphia just days after a wide-ranging interview with Fox Sports in which he explained how he feels "free to be myself" and that Philadelphia is not "conducive for a superstar," adding that the stars in Philadelphia must be "blue-collar along the way, keep your mouth shut, just go and work."

In Los Angeles, everything is blue except the collar.

"This is the first year I've had to adapt more than any other, coming from a different organization to a new organization," said Rollins, traded to the Dodgers in December for minor-league pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle. "Different way of doing things. Different perception of things, of their brand. I've learned to like the blue. Even though blue is my favorite color, it's something about that Dodger blue that as we were playing against them, you wanted to beat them."

There was a moment this spring when Rollins heard opposing fans chant "Beat L.A.!" and he couldn't help but laugh. He is a child of the Bay Area who was 9 years old when he watched the Dodgers beat the Oakland A's in the 1988 World Series. He hit a leadoff home run at Dodger Stadium in the Phillies' NL Championship Series-clinching victory on their way to the 2008 World Series. One year later, he hit a game-ending double to give the Phillies a Game 4 victory over the Dodgers in the NLCS. So he's heard the chant before.

"For a long time - you don't hear 'Beat the Dodgers,' you don't hear 'Beat the Lakers,' even the Clippers now - it's 'Beat L.A.,' " Rollins said. "It's everything L.A. stands for. . . . I've heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side."

He did not immediately accept all that comes with playing for the Dodgers. Rollins was steeped in the Phillies culture. So much is different for him this spring - from the site (Arizona, not Florida) to the teammates to the clubhouse.

"I was in the clubhouse, and I'm on a team, but still not buying into it with so many years on the other side," Rollins said. "You feel like you don't want to give into it, like you're a traitor if you do. Because everything that was anti-L.A., you have to start breaking those walls down. I was able to do that. And it's OK. It's OK to let it in."

What Rollins found was a team - and a culture - that reminded him of the Phillies' last decade. He sees similarities to the Phillies from midway through the 2006 season to midway through the 2012 season. Rollins felt the window closing after 2012. And he said no matter how much talent is on a team, if that team is losing, it becomes tough in the clubhouse. The Dodgers have had one losing season since 2006 and won the National League West the last two seasons.

"They were in contention [the] same time we were in contention," Rollins said. "We won a World Series. But guess what? They're still in contention. They've found a way to string it out. Just haven't won a World Series. Hopefully we can change that this year."

The Dodgers are expecting him to bring a similar presence to their team. He can help at the top of the order and in the middle of the field, but he also brings a championship experience to a club deep with players who have All-Star Game appearances, but not many with World Series rings.

"If anything, you have to sit back," Rollins said of his leadership. "You can't just throw yourself in. You have to find where you fit in. . . . Being a leader, a lot of the time, is listening. And then coming up at the end with maybe an evaluation of what you feel will work best. I learned that there [in Philadelphia]. It's a great situation for me to implement those lessons here."

Rollins confessed he's not someone who will ever arrive too early, but he finds time to work when others do not. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is impressed by Rollins' efficiency. In batting practice, Rollins is not trying to hit it far - just trying to hit it right.

In defensive drills, Rollins "is having fun, but doing his work." He'll work on balls up the middle, the timing of his spin. Mattingly explained that Rollins can minimize the amount of ground balls he takes, but maximize the productivity of the session.

"When you see Jimmy every day, you get a chance to see the work ethic and the way he goes about the business, and I don't know if that's changed over the years or not, but you really see a professional approach," Mattingly said. "You can tell his work is all measured. . . . He's a guy I've seen who knows how to work smart at this point in his career."

Dodgers first base coach Davey Lopes, who was a coach with the Phillies from 2007 to 2010, was initially surprised by Rollins' decision to accept a trade because of Rollins' legacy of Philadelphia. He thought it was a "good choice" and "good career move," especially considering the direction of both clubs.

Rollins has not allowed himself to think about a return to Citizens Bank Park in August, other then getting tickets for family. He glows at the mentions of Freddy Galvis with the Phillies, happy that Galvis has this season to try to replace him in Philadelphia. He insisted that he does not keep an eye on what's going on with the team. When pressed for any perspective he has about the Phillies now that he's somewhere else, Rollins quickly shot back: "Doesn't matter."

On Thursday, Rollins strolled into the clubhouse 45 minutes before the team's meeting, joked with locker mates Juan Uribe and Howie Kendrick, ate breakfast, then went through batting and fielding practice. Fans shouted "Jimmy" as he walked by. Tommy Lasorda called him over for a brief discussion. He hit a home run, a double, and had four RBI in an afternoon game against the White Sox.

Vintage Rollins.

Asked if he'd feel the same excitement this spring if he reported to Clearwater instead of Phoenix, he said he couldn't answer yes or no. Then he took a moment and flashed that smile Philadelphia has come to know so well - and Los Angeles will now see.

"But it's good energy here," Rollins said. "That's for sure."