By way of free agency, trades, and outright releases, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ clubhouse has lost several large personalities that had been mainstays on their back-to-back NL West title teams.
Of the players no longer with the team, Matt Kemp leaves the biggest void as he not only was the Dodgers’ best player in the second half of 2014, but he had also spent his entire 11-year career with them. While key holdovers include Adrian Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw, among others, Jimmy Rollins is hoping to assume a leadership role with his new team.
During a conference call on Friday, Rollins shared what he believes he’ll need to accomplish with the Dodgers, via Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider:
All I have to do is go out there and be a leader on that squad and win,” Rollins said. “It’s a cliche in sports, but when you win, it takes care of everything else. My job is to be (the) glue … and make sure everything works.”
In joining the Dodgers, Rollins will need to develop a chemistry with Howie Kendrick, who also will play for just the second team in his career. During his introductory press conference, Kendrick discussed the admiration he had for Rollins and placed an emphasis on Spring Training being used to grow accustomed to playing with his new double play partner.
Kendrick’s sentiments were reciprocated by the 36-year-old shortstop:
Hopefully, Howie and I can get a lot of work in and get ourselves compatible from the very beginning. I’ve seen his style, I’ve seen him play (and) I’ve actually become a fan of his. … After about 10 days or two weeks (in Spring Training), we should be in pretty good shape.”
Individual and collective success from Kendrick and Rollins figures to heavily influence how far the Dodgers will go next season. Despite his defensive and offensive shortcomings, Hanley Ramirez led all shortstops in on-base percentage (.369), slugging percentage (.448) and OPS (.817).
Rollins doesn’t carry the same caliber bat, but has proven to be a consistent hitter and should be an upgrade defensively. Kendrick won’t be able to replace the speed factor lost in Dee Gordon, however he brings with him more pop and is also regarded as having the better glove between the two second basemen.
Should the remade middle infield not work out in the Dodgers favor, they won’t need to wait long to make adjustments as both Kendrick and Rollins have one year remaining on their respective contracts.