GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Third baseman Scott Rolen won’t make a guess about how many games his surgically repaired shoulder will allow him to play this season. The Cincinnati Reds hope it’s a lot more than last year.
Rolen reported with the rest of the Reds position players for their first workout on Friday. He said his left shoulder feels good, six months after surgery to clean it out.
Still, he’s not sure what to expect. Rolen turns 37 on April 4 and has been bothered by back and shoulder problems the last two years. He’s entering the final year on his contract.
Rolen played in so few games last season — 65 — that he felt fresh at the end of the year, something he’d like to avoid.
“I’m looking at the present,” Rolen said. “I just want to go out and play and be tired at the end of the year, if it is my last year. I want to make sure that I can play and be responsible.”
Rolen was instrumental in the Reds winning the NL Central title in 2010, having an All-Star caliber first half of the season — .290 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs. Nagging injuries to his back and shoulder caused a significant drop in his power in the second half, when he hit only three homers and drove in 26 runs.
The shoulder sent pain into his neck and prevented him from raising his arm above shoulder level last season, forcing him to have surgery on Aug. 3. He wanted to play again before the end of the season, but the shoulder didn’t recover as quickly as hoped.
It’s been a problem for years. Rolen hurt it in a collision with the Dodgers’ Hee Seop Choi in 2005, requiring two operations. He missed the final month of the 2007 season and had the shoulder cleaned out. He sprained it in 2008.
Rolen set a goal of playing in 120 games last season, but the shoulder hurt enough that he went on the disabled list. Rolen batted .242 with five homers and 36 RBIs, which weren’t his most disappointing statistics.
“I’m not a big numbers guy,” he said. “I do like to look at games played. I was disappointed last year. I felt I wasn’t accountable last year. I have a responsibility to my team.”
Rolen is in the final year of a contract he renegotiated with the Reds to give them more payroll flexibility in the short-term. He’ll make a base salary of $6.5 million this season.
Rolen said he’s been taking batting practice — though not every day — since January. Manager Dusty Baker will go easy with him during spring training and make sure to get him adequate rest during the season.
“The number of games he plays will be based on how he feels,” Baker said. “I don’t want to put a number on it. Some of the other guys will have to fill in some. This spring will determine who. A lot will depend on how the other guys play and what we need — power, speed, defense.”