Cards find roster spot for improving Rolen

He is hoping to help late in series

Baker sits tight

NLCS notebook


October 10, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ST. LOUIS -- The medical status of St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen remains uncertain, but the club decided to take a chance on his possible availability later in the National League Championship Series and keep him on the 25-man active roster.

It is a controversial and complex move, since there is no guarantee that Rolen's sprained shoulder will improve enough to allow him to play in the later stages of the NLCS.

"It's a tough read still," Rolen said. "I'm progressing every day. The first two days, first three days, I could not lift my shoulder up. Right now, I have almost full range of movement in my shoulder. There's still some pain in spots and I have a little bit in some areas, but we still have some time."

Rolen, who was injured in a collision with Arizona Diamondbacks base runner Alex Cintron in the second game of the Division Series, definitely will not be available for the first two games of the best-of-seven series.

"If I can progress daily like I have up to this point," Rolen said, "I'm optimistic I can get back in the lineup and hopefully contribute."

The decision was difficult for manager Tony La Russa, because the Cardinals already were hamstrung by a roster limitation that made it impossible for him to reduce the size of his pitching staff from 12 pitchers to 11. Rolen's presence -- and current unavailability -- will force him to play with just four healthy position players on the bench.

"The key is -- the most important thing -- if your starting pitcher gets you into the last third of the game, four is probably enough if you don't go extra innings," La Russa said.

La Russa seemed to indicate earlier in the week that he would only play short if there was a chance that Rolen might be able to help for a significant portion of the series.

"More importantly," La Russa said, "Dr. George Paletta assured it's the kind of injury that you deal with the pain, but you don't run the risk of it becoming something permanent or chronic or injuring it worse.

"... Since there's a chance that he could play sometime in the middle of the series, he's part of how our club became special."

Baker mum on future

San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker continues to be the subject of intense speculation in several cities where clubs are searching for new managers. He reportedly is the top candidate to replace Bobby Valentine with New York Mets and also has been mentioned frequently as a likely front-runner for the Chicago Cubs.

Baker again deflected questioned about his status with the Giants during last night's pre-game news conference.

"The way I deal with it is that we have work to do here," Baker said. "We have eight more games to win and we are the world champions. There are still four standing and we are still one of the four, and this opportunity doesn't come along that often. So you have to put your personal things aside.

"That's what I tell my players. Right now, we are concentrating and focusing as a team, and not on any individual."

Ratings decision

The NLCS and ALCS went head-to-head on Fox and Fox Sports Net last night because Fox executives felt that more people would combine to watch the two games than watch a game in the afternoon and one in the evening.

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