We might be witnessing the last run of All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen. He is 37 years old and often injured. But when he is right he can still be a huge asset to a team like his Cincinnati Reds that is massing for a high-percentage run at the National League Central Division title.
Rolen turned in his first big game for the Reds in Friday night’s 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Twins after coming off the disabled list earlier in the week. He was his vintage self with three hits in four at-bats, scored a run and knocked in two runs. It should only be that way every day. But it hasn’t been.
Rolen has appeared in just over half of the Reds’ 2012 games and was batting .196 after his spurt. The eight-time All-Star was activated from the disabled list after rehabbing a strained shoulder. He actually got some hitting practice by dropping down to AAA Louisville briefly where he slammed a 438-foot homer. That was taken as a sign of his readiness to return to Cincinnati.
The judgment was apparently right on since Saturday afternoon Rolen added a double, a single, a walk and two runs scored as Cincinnati ended a four-game losing streak with a 6-0 triumph over the Twins and upped the average to .209 in one swoop.
“I’ve had a good year these last two days,” Rolen said.
The Reds have been doing fine this season, with or without Rolen, with or without others who have had injuries. They are in first place and are 39-31 going into Sunday’s interleague series wrap-up against the Twins.
Rolen got some satisfaction out of his sterling performance Friday night.
“Just being able to do something,” he said.
He said it wasn’t as if he was really itching to get back into the lineup because he knew his body was uncooperative.
“When you’re hurt, you’re hurt,” Rolen said. “For the most part I didn’t want to be out there because I was hurt. ”
When he finally felt healed, then Rolen couldn’t wait to get going and start playing again.
“That whetted my appetite,” he said.
Rolen has had a long and productive career, breaking into the majors with the Phillies in 1996. He was a key player for the Cardinals, spent a little time with the Toronto Blue Jays, and came to the Reds in 2009. The last time Rolen played as many as 140 games in a season, though, was 2006. It’s been one thing or another knocking him in and out of the lineup.
Reds manager Dusty Baker liked seeing signs of Rolen’s old self in these two Twins games.
“Scotty came through with big hits today,” Baker said after Saturday’s win. “And with some real good base-running.”
The recent injury gave Todd Frazier a shot at playing third base and he could be the Reds’ main man of the future at the position, but with Rolen back and outfielder Drew Stubbs injured, Baker deployed him in left field and Frazier had two hits and reached base three times.
As recently as 2010 Rolen produced All-Star-caliber performances, batting .285 with 20 home runs and 83 RBIs in 133 games. Now that Rolen is back and assuming his starting role, if he can swing with the authority he did Friday night, it will be like picking up a bonus player for the Reds as they approach the All-Star break. If Rolen can still play consistently at his old, healthy level the boost for the Reds as they try to hold onto the division lead will be huge.