Healthy Rolen streaking at the plate
Toronto (43-44) at Baltimore (38-47), 7:05 p.m. ET
ST. PETERSBURG -- Scott Rolen had to go through a handful of stages before becoming the type of offensive player he believed he could be again. The process began last season for the Blue Jays third baseman and continued into the early portion of this year.
"It started here," said Rolen, pointing to his head.
Rolen admits that he was in denial last season when it came to the left shoulder issue that was dragging down his performance. It took him time to shed his stubborn side and accept that a change in his stance was needed to counter the physical limitations of playing with a surgically-repaired shoulder.
Once Rolen did alter his mechanics, lowering his hands to reduce stress on his shoulder after years of holding the bat high in the air before his swing, he had to be convinced that the changes would indeed work. This season, Rolen's performance -- and clean bill of health -- have restored his confidence and reassured him that his work has paid off.
"I was still tinkering the first six weeks of the season," Rolen said. "I was still moving around within the same boundaries. Then, I got to a point where I started to go, 'I'm OK here. Good is good.' Sometimes, good isn't good enough and you want good to become great. Well, good becomes great through confidence and repetition and consistency -- not through one change on a Tuesday in the cage."
His last point was the main problem last season for Rolen, who heads to Baltimore this weekend riding a career-best 25-game hitting streak. Rolen said he was cycling through various mechanical adjustments on a daily basis, trying to figure out how to get out of a slump that was worsened by a fatigued shoulder.
"I'm going to go down to the cage and I'm going to try to find a way to get a hit today," said Rolen, referring to his mind-set last year. "Before going down to the cage, I don't have a clue how I'm going to do it. That's what I'm saying. That's not a good way to go about it. ... It's a whole process. There's a physical process. There's a mental process. There's a confidence process.
"When you have confidence in what you're doing physically, then you can concentrate on what you're doing out there. But if you have no confidence in what you're doing physically, you can't get to the ball. You've got to try to find something. You've got to try to find something to work that day, because you're going to be competing out there that day. You're in the lineup. You're accountable.
"When you change from day to day to day to day, you have two good days and you have three bad days, and so you change and do something completely different and you're unaware that you're physically limited. You don't have an awareness that, 'I can't do that.' You don't want to think that way. You want to think, 'My timing's off. My hands aren't in the right spot.'"
It wasn't until August of last season -- when Rolen landed on the disabled list and spent time in Florida working on his swing mechanics with his personal trainer, Hap Hudson -- that the third baseman allowed himself to accept that a change had to be made. After returning to the Jays' lineup later that month, he hit .298 over his final 27 games.
This season, Rolen has hit .330 with six home runs, 26 doubles, 45 runs scored and 34 RBIs in 74 games for the Blue Jays. His average ranked third in the American League through Wednesday and was the best mark among big league third basemen. Over his 25-game hitting streak -- the fourth-longest run in club history -- Rolen has batted at a .390 clip.
For Rolen, the most important thing has been his health. In the 11 games before the All-Star break last year, the third baseman managed only a .150 average. He was worn out, even though he'd spent much of last April on the DL with a right finger issue. This year, Rolen has not experienced any similar issues and he's thrived at the plate as a result.
"At this point last year, I was struggling physically," Rolen said. "I didn't realize it and didn't want to admit it. I was running on fumes, trying to get to the All-Star break, and I had played a month less because I was off all of April with my finger injury.
"Being healthy is the key. I'm healthy right now -- no question. If I'm healthy, I want to go out there and play, and I want to take good at-bats and see if things pile up."
TOR: LHP Brett Cecil (2-1, 6.23 ERA)
Cecil has gone 0-1 with an 11.29 ERA over his past four starts for the Jays.
Berken has gone 0-4 with a 7.94 ERA over his past six outings for the O's. Bird feed
Shortstop Marco Scutaro received a day off on Thursday, marking his first time out of the starting lineup this season for the Blue Jays. With 86 games played this season, Scutaro ranks second to teammate Vernon Wells in the Major Leagues. Over his past seven games, Scutaro has hit .323 (10-for-30). Manager Cito Gaston doesn't believe Scutaro -- a part-time player until this season -- has shown any signs of tiring. "Not really," Gaston said. "When guys are dragging, they don't swing the bat like that." ... In his three worst starts this season, Jays lefty Brian Tallet has allowed 26 runs combined on 32 hits over 10 1/3 innings, going 0-2 with a 22.65 ERA in those outings. In his other 14 starts, Tallet is 5-4 with a 2.72 ERA (26 ER/86 IP). "If I'm doing that in A ball, I'm getting released," Tallet said of his poor starts. "I've got to figure out what's going wrong when I'm going bad and not allow it to happen." ... Entering Thursday, the Blue Jays led the Majors with 188 doubles. That marks the second-highest total before the All-Star break in club history. The Jays clubbed a franchise-high 229 doubles before the break in 2003. ... The Jays reached 100 home runs in 86 games this season. Last year, Toronto only had 60 homers through its 86th contest. ... The Jays have already used 23 pitchers this season, representing the most arms used prior to the All-Star break in team history. Tickets
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Saturday: Blue Jays (Ricky Romero, 7-3, 2.96) at Orioles (Brad Bergesen, 5-3, 3.59), 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Blue Jays (Marc Rzepczynski, 0-0, 1.50) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 6-8, 5.35), 1:35 p.m. ET
Monday-Thursday: All-Star break
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.