Corey Seager is the Dodgers’ shortstop, for all intents and purposes.


SAN FRANCISCO — New York Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp led the American League in home runs in 1916 and 1917. He won a World Series in 1923. In 1925, he went into a slump and was benched in favor of a rookie named Lou Gehrig; Pipp never got his job back as Gehrig started 2,130 consecutive games en route to a Hall of Fame career.

Even 90 years later, replacing an established veteran with a young up-and-comer is still hard, whether the manager is Miller Huggins or Don Mattingly, whether the veteran is Wally Pipp or Jimmy Rollins.

“Nothing like this is ever easy,” said Mattingly, who effectively chose 21-year-old Corey Seager over the 36-year-old Rollins as his everyday shortstop Tuesday.

Seager is batting fifth and playing shortstop against one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball, Madison Bumgarner. He also started Monday against Giants right-hander Jake Peavy.

Tuesday’s decision was a somewhat unusual one for Mattingly, who often makes out his lineup card based on handedness. Tuesday, he stacked his lineup with six right-handers, as well as Seager, left-handed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw against the left-handed Bumgarner.

It appears Seager is in the Dodgers’ lineup to stay, relegating Rollins to a bench role. Mattingly wouldn’t offer an overview of the shortstop position Tuesday — “I’m not trying to view it,” he said, “other than to put out the lineup that gives us the best chance to win tonight” — though the change is significant enough that he recently met with Rollins to discuss it.

“It’s definitely a conversation, that’s for sure, out of respect to him, his career, what he’s done in his career,” Mattingly said. “But also I feel like he’s been a huge part of our club this year, getting it where we are right now — his leadership in the middle of the diamond, in the clubhouse. I feel he’s been a rock in that circumstance.”

Seager is batting .342 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 22 games. He’s reached base in each of his 20 starts to begin his career, something no Dodger has done since 1953.

Rollins has played 142 games in his first season as a Dodger, batting a career-low .225 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs. His 12 stolen bases (in 20 attempts) are also a career low. During his 15 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, Rollins won a World Series, a National League MVP award, four Gold Glove Awards and was named to three All-Star games.

“Again, I have a ton of respect for who Jimmy is, number one,” Mattingly said. “You don’t just do this and not get attached to guys, love who they are, what they bring, have respect for how hard it is to do. Nothing about having that conversation with Jimmy is easy.”

Rollins was held out of the Dodgers’ starting lineup in 14 games earlier this month because of an injury to his right index finger. It was during this time, Mattingly said, that Seager seized the job.

“Opportunity knocks and he seemed to do well right away,” Mattingly said. “If Jimmy doesn’t hurt his index finger, we may not be having this conversation right now.”

The Dodgers get their second crack at eliminating the Giants from the National League West race at AT&T Park tonight.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.