Phillies Notebook: Rolen makes appearance at Phillies camp

RYAN LAWRENCE / DAILY NEWS STAFF Larry Bowa, Scott Rolen have a chat before yesterday's exhibition opener in Clearwater, Fla.
RYAN LAWRENCE / DAILY NEWS STAFF Larry Bowa, Scott Rolen have a chat before yesterday's exhibition opener in Clearwater, Fla.
Posted: February 28, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Before the handshake with Larry Bowa, the oddest thing about the man with two young kids standing near the home dugout at Bright House Field was the piece of paper dangling from his neck.

"Scott Rolen, Philadelphia Phillies," read the items under "name" and "affiliation" on the 38-year-old's guest pass.

Rolen, the National League Rookie of the Year with the Phillies in 1997, watched his former team take batting practice yesterday morning prior to the first Grapefruit League game of the spring.

Rolen's appearance was somewhat surprising, since his 7-year stay with the Phillies did not end well. Rolen questioned management's commitment to winning and famously clashed with then-manager Bowa before being traded to St. Louis in July 2002 for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.

But Bowa was among those who shook hands, and traded smiles and pleasantries with Rolen. Rolen said he has been on good terms with the Phillies for a while.

"I think you can look at a lot of things in your life and wonder if you'd handle things the same way, things that seemed important at the time," Rolen said. "And you know what? It was important, so that's what should have happened. If you're trying to do the right thing and you're principled and driven and trying to make the right decisions, then you back those decisions up. Now, 15 to 20 years later, whatever, the life decisions might be different. You're 38, 39, 40 years old - not 20. That's a pretty big gap. I don't want to say regret or anything. Everything kind of worked out as well as it could have and should have, I guess."

Rolen was invited to a game by a Phillies employee a couple weeks ago, when he was contacted after the sudden death of his former manager, Jim Fregosi. Rolen wasn't sure he was up for it until his kids convinced their dad they wanted to go to a ballgame.

Rolen, who splits time between Bradenton, Fla., and Bloomington, Ind., said yesterday was his first time in a professional ballpark since striking out to make the last out against the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 NLDS as a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

"I'm not even sure what official retirement is," Rolen said. "If I have to put a suit on and go somewhere, then, no, I will not be officially retired. I had a couple of offers last spring with the Reds and the Dodgers [last year]. I have a 6- and a 9-year-old, that kind of outweighed the two offers that I had. I played a while. It wasn't an everyday situation for me. I just felt like it wasn't going to work out, it wasn't what I was looking for.

"This is what I was looking for right now. We had a good year. I stayed on a baseball field [with his sons], it was just a lot smaller dimensions . . . had a blast. Transitioning, the first year, like everyone says, is difficult. Even Doc Halladay, I watched his press conference and you could see relief. There's no question there is some relief. But it's a year of not doing something you've done since Little League, really, playing baseball. It's a transition, but I think it's a good transition. I'm excited to keep going with where I am."

Rolen didn't rule out returning to baseball in another capacity in the future, but he also said he wasn't ready to put a uniform back on just yet, either. The Reds offered him a role as a guest instructor this spring, but he is noncommittal.

Rolen said he does have a competitive void he needs to find a way to fill, though.

"You put in so many hours of work doing one thing and then you're not doing it anymore, you have to fill that space a little bit," Rolen said. "I'm a driven person. You can't drive 100 miles per hour to the golf course."

Rolen hit .282 with an .877 OPS, 150 home runs and 559 RBI in 844 games with the Phillies. He appeared in one All-Star Game and won four Rawlings Gold Glove awards in seven seasons with the team. In 17 major league seasons, Rolen had 316 home runs, 2,077 hits and a .281 batting average.

Roberto Hernandez is the heavy favorite for the fifth starter's job. His first appearance with the Phillies did not go well.

Hernandez gave up a titanic home run to Toronto's Jose Bautista, the third batter he faced, in the Phillies' 4-3 loss in their exhibition season opener. He allowed two runs on four hits in two innings.

Three of those hits were either to the warning track or over the wall. Bautista's landed outside the ballpark on a blustery day.

Hernandez wasn't blaming the weather conditions.

"If you keep a ball up like I did today," Hernandez said, "that's what's going to happen."

Manager Ryne Sandberg said the pitcher threw more four-seam fastballs than he would normally throw in a game.

Hernandez, 33, signed a 1-year, $4.5 million deal this winter. He went 6-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 32 games with Tampa last season.

Ryan Howard hit a blistering RBI single off former teammate J.A. Happ in the first inning. Including Tuesday's intrasquad game, it was Howard's third straight run-scoring hit; all came off lefthanders. Howard finished yesterday's game 1-for-2 . . .

Antonio Bastardo struck out one and allowed one hit in a scoreless sixth inning. Bastardo missed the final 51 games of the 2013 season after serving a suspension for his part in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal. He is a favorite to open the season as the eighth-inning setup man in front of closer Jonathan Papelbon . . .

Cliff Lee will make his spring debut against the Blue Jays in Dunedin today (1:05 p.m., MLB Network). Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are not scheduled to start. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will start for Toronto.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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