Rolen suits up, takes batting practice
Third baseman probably won't return to Jays' roster until May
BALTIMORE -- Scott Rolen strolled into the visitors' clubhouse at Camden Yards, stopped and glanced around. The Blue Jays' third baseman turned to teammate David Eckstein and asked where his temporary locker was located.
Eckstein promptly pointed Rolen to one of the room's corners, where a stall bearing the third baseman's "33" along the top sat vacant. Rolen dropped off his bag, and minutes later was taking part in a meeting for Toronto's hitters prior to Monday's game against Baltimore.
It marked the first time this regular season that Rolen -- on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right middle finger -- was able to suit up with his fellow Blue Jays. After a meeting with his Baltimore-based hand specialist on Monday, the injured infielder took pregame batting practice with Toronto.
In terms of Rolen's workouts, he's moved ahead of the schedule that was first outlined after he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his finger at the end of Spring Training. Despite progress in that area, though, Rolen's finger is still tender and he may need until at least early May to return to Toronto's lineup.
"Baseball preparation-wise, I'm ahead of schedule," Rolen said on Monday. "The timeframe doesn't change, because of the healing process. That's what we're lagging on, is healing. That nobody can speed up.
"But it's good to get back here with the guys -- get a uniform on and freeze on the bench and take a few hacks."
Dr. Thomas Graham, who performed surgery to repair Rolen's mangled finger on March 24 in Baltimore, initially indicated that Rolen could potentially return in four to six weeks. It'll be one month since Rolen's surgery a week from Monday, but the third baseman said he didn't believe that was a realistic return date.
Rolen broke his finger during a routine fielding drill in Florida on March 23 and needed a pin inserted into the digit to stabilize the bone. The pin was removed from Rolen's finger on April 7, and the third baseman began throwing the following day. That was roughly a week before Rolen was originally advised to pick up a baseball.
"I wanted to test it," Rolen said. "The doctor didn't think I could hurt it, so I figured if I threw one I'd know right away what the situation was and if I needed to stop, I needed to stop. It felt fine and I kept with that. That's all bonus stuff, baseball-wise."
Rolen has been wearing a protective rubber sleeve on his finger while hitting, and he has yet to field ground balls. The 33-year-old Rolen is hesitant to take grounders for fear of aggravating the finger injury when attempting to quickly transfer the ball from his glove to his recovering throwing hand.
When throwing, Rolen -- acquired from St. Louis in the January trade that sent third baseman Troy Glaus to the Cardinals -- said there still is a minor level of discomfort.
"Not to the point that I think I'm damaging anything," he said. "It's sensitive. I don't have a lot of feeling in it still. I'm going to take what it gives me and I'm going to push it. I've pushed it pretty hard and I've been really aggressive with it, but you can't be aggressive with healing. You can't push healing."
Rolen met with Graham in Baltimore prior to joining the Jays at Camden Yards on Monday and the doctor examined the third baseman's finger. Graham didn't spot anything out of the ordinary or alarming, but that didn't mean Rolen was about to speculate about when he might be able to come off the DL.
"We're going to see how it goes," Rolen said. "I've never really seen a timeframe that actually works, so we're still reluctant with that. I'm excited that I can do baseball stuff the way I've been able to do the baseball stuff right now, because I think that will put me a little bit ahead when I do come back.
"The doctor said he loves the way it looks and loves what's going on, but I almost knocked the tip of my finger off. The healing process is the healing process and it's not ready."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.