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08/01/09 7:30 PM ET
Rolen enjoying a homecoming of sorts
Reds' new third baseman happy to be back in Midwest
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Right now, there might not be a happier person in the city of Cincinnati than Scott Rolen.
Rolen, the Reds' new third baseman and a native of Jasper, Ind., couldn't have been more pleased about the Friday trade that brought him over from the Blue Jays.
"I'm thrilled to be here, no question," Rolen said on Saturday, with general manager Walt Jocketty sitting to his right in the Reds' dugout. "This is as close to home as I can be. My parents brought me here to watch ballgames. Where I'm from, there's a St. Louis-Cincinnati split right down the middle. I've hit them both. I'm a Midwestern guy and like being here. I enjoyed my time in St. Louis with Walt and this part of the country. This is the spot I wanted to get back to and be for a while."
Jasper, by Rolen's estimate, is only 2 1/2-three hours away from Cincinnati.
"Depends on who's driving," said Rolen, who batted .320 with eight home runs and 43 RBIs this season with Toronto. "We might see a spike in beer sales on some of these weekends from a Southern Indiana group of folks when my buddies come over."
Rolen was acquired along with cash from Toronto for third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. In Rolen, the Reds received a five-time All-Star and a seven-time Gold Glove winner. He's also won a World Series ring -- with the Cardinals in 2006.
The rest of the Reds wasted no time accommodating their new teammate. Rolen was issued his old number from his Cardinals days, No. 27, which had belonged to rookie Drew Sutton, who switched to No. 15.
Rolen was given one of the coveted double lockers -- often reserved for respected veterans -- at the end of the Reds' clubhouse. His new locker, however, had previously been occupied by 22-year-old slugger Jay Bruce. At the request of clubhouse manager Rick Stowe, Bruce was asked if Rolen could have the locker, and Bruce wasted no time acquiescing and moving to Encarnacion's old locker.
"We got the big guy here so I moved over," Bruce said. "The guy is an All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He deserves that locker."
Upon his arrival from Oakland, where the Blue Jays were when the trade went down, Rolen had a long conversation with Reds manager Dusty Baker.
"He'll help make us better," Baker said. "He is one of the foundation guys that you need to build a new house with. I'll tell you one thing. He's a big ol' man, especially to be as agile as he is playing third base. He makes plays. He almost never throws balls away. When he gets his hands on it, it's on the money."
Sure enough, on Saturday vs. Rockies, Rolen made a nice stop on the first ball hit his way. In the first inning, he nabbed a sharp line drive from Clint Barmes on one hop and threw Barmes out at first.
Before the trade was made, the Reds did an extensive medical background check on Rolen, who has a lengthy injury history. From 2005-08, he played more than 115 games in a season only once, because of a left shoulder injury. Reds medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek repaired a torn labrum when Rolen was with St. Louis.
"Perfect, no trouble at all," Rolen said of his shoulder this season.
Rolen broke into the Majors in 1996 with the Phillies and stayed in Philadelphia until 2002. He was with the Cardinals from 2002-07 before his trade to the Blue Jays.
Rolen had a no-trade clause that had to be waived before his trade could be completed before Friday's 4 p.m. ET deadline. That proved to be a no-brainer since it was Rolen who requested Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi to deal him.
And to deal him to Cincinnati, if possible.
"I kind of took a leap of faith going to a new league, going to a new country, going to a new team," Rolen said of the Blue Jays. "I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and my wife. My parents travel around quite a bit. My brother lives in this area. I always wanted to try and finish up at home or get back to this area and this part of the country. I did approach [Ricciardi] and ask if he'd consider moving me back to this area and the Midwest. This was certainly my No. 1 choice."