Jays activate Rolen from disabled list
Retooled swing to result from left shoulder injuries
ST. PETERSBURG -- There was a moment when Scott Rolen had serious doubts about his future in baseball. Surrounded by reporters at the end of July, the Blue Jays veteran third baseman revealed that his left shoulder -- the culprit behind three past surgeries -- was acting up again.
As Rolen discussed his injury, which has been a kind of recurring nightmare for him over the past few seasons, he tried as hard as he could to keep things positive. On Tuesday at Tropicana Field, Rolen found it much easier to talk about his future after being activated from the 15-day disabled list.
The injury forced an admittedly stubborn Rolen to retool the swing he's used for the past 13 seasons. In that sense, he believes the fact that the problem flared up again could be a good thing in the end. With a revamped approach, Rolen is confident he can return to being a consistent part of Toronto's offense.
A few weeks ago, Rolen had doubts that was going to be the case.
"I'll tell you, I wasn't sure," Rolen said. "It hit me about three weeks ago or a month ago, whenever we were standing at my locker. I was throwing some false positives out there, because I wasn't sure where I was. I knew that I couldn't get to the baseball.
"I knew that I had dug as deep as I could dig and I worked as hard as I could work and I couldn't get to the baseball. That doesn't give me much confidence and you don't feel real good about your career or your future.
"I think I can get to the baseball right now. I feel confident that I can get to it and I'm excited.
For the past two weeks, the 33-year-old Rolen met with his longtime trainer in Florida and discussed possible changes to his swing -- anything to help ease the fatiguing in his arm. Rolen decided to lower his hands and to shorten his path to the baseball, and he said the result has been less stress on his shoulder.
On Tuesday, Rolen was held out of the starting lineup for the Blue Jays, but he took part in pregame batting practice, displaying his slightly altered style. Toronto manager Cito Gaston said Rolen will likely be out of the order again on Wednesday, but the third baseman could return on a full-time basis come Thursday or Friday.
"I'll have him in the lineup pretty much every day," Gaston said. "Hopefully, he'll go back to like he was in 2004. We have to wait and see. He's pretty confident about it and we hope that he does do it, because we've got him for the next couple years."
In 2004, Rolen hit .314 with 34 home runs and 124 RBIs in 142 games for the Cardinals, who traded him to the Jays in exchange for Troy Glaus in January. In 2005, Rolen's shoulder began to act up and he underwent two procedures (one on May 13 and another on July 25) to repair labral tears in the arm.
Last year, the shoulder issue came up once again and Rolen -- owed $26 million over the next two seasons -- underwent a season-ending operation to clear out some scar tissue on Sept. 13. This time around, Rolen's shoulder began to fatigue again, but he continued to play for Toronto, while undergoing an aggressive rehab schedule between games.
Rolen said that type of schedule led to some other minor ailments, including discomfort in his neck and upper back. From the end of June and into early August, Rolen hit just .172 over a 29-game span for the Jays. At that point, Toronto decided to place Rolen on the DL on Aug. 10, allowing him time to recover and regain some range of motion.
"It made me kind of throw the towel in on what I've been doing," said Rolen, who is batting .252 with seven homers and 38 RBIs in 88 games this year. "I think it's a really good thing, actually. It's not certainly what I wanted to do, but I think I can kind of go from here and finish up my career knowing what I have. I don't think it'll be an issue at this point."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.