04/24/08 8:32 PM ET
Rolen due to be activated Friday
Third baseman sidelined by broken finger since Spring Training
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
That was a good sign, considering the hand Gibbons promptly shook was the one Rolen injured in the later stages of Spring Training. On Thursday, Rolen was back in uniform for Toronto and due to be activated from the disabled list following the Jays' evening tilt against Tampa Bay.
Rolen -- fresh off a brief rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin -- fielded grounders at third base during pregame drills and took some swings during batting practice with the Blue Jays. He won't deny that the right middle finger he broke on March 23 is still tender, but Rolen decided the time had come to rejoin Toronto.
"I've convinced myself that it's time to play," Rolen said.
After the finale of Toronto's current series against Tampa Bay at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex on Thursday, Rolen will board the team's charter to Kansas City. The Jays will likely send either infielder Joe Inglett or catcher Robinzon Diaz back to Triple-A Syracuse to clear room on the roster for Rolen.
"We need him," Gibbons said. "We asked him to tell us when he felt he was ready and we trust what he tells us. He's anxious to get going."
Come Friday, when Toronto opens a three-game set against the Royals, Rolen will be off the 15-day DL and able to play in his first game as a member of the Blue Jays. Gibbons noted that Rolen -- acquired from the Cardinals in the trade that sent Troy Glaus to St. Louis in January -- would probably bat sixth in the Jays' lineup.
Rolen and Gibbons both said that Toronto's offensive struggles had no influence on the timing of the third baseman's return. Gibbons added that it was "unfair to him to expect him to come in and save the day." Rolen also dismissed the notion that he might've decided to come back now in light of the team's recent woes.
"That's not a healthy approach to anything," Rolen said. "That's not been portrayed from the front office or the training room or the manager or anything along the way. It's always been, from when [the injury] happened, to 'Get you better, get you back and get you ready to play.'"
Near the end of Spring Training, Rolen took a line drive off the tip of the middle finger on his throwing hand, suffering a non-displaced fracture of the digit in the process. On March 24, Rolen had a pin inserted into his finger to stabilize the bone and resumed baseball activities after having the pin removed on April 7.
The only obstacle left for Rolen, in terms of his injury, is the healing process. The 33-year-old third baseman still has a bone bruise in the tip of his finger, and he still fights tenderness when throwing and hitting. Rolen tried to swing with a pad on his finger underneath his batting glove, but has since moved on without the small sleeve.
"We're at a point where it doesn't matter," said Rolen, when asked if the finger still caused discomfort. "I feel it when I throw and I feel it when I hit. But my options are, sit for a month and do nothing and wait for that to heal, or I can go play. I think it's time to play."
With Class A Dunedin, Rolen appeared in three games -- two at third base and one as the team's designated hitter. Rolen was charged with one error in the field, where he was able to test his hand with a few barehanded plays, and he finished 0-for-9 at the plate.
"I was pretty pathetic, actually, on my rehab assignment," said Rolen, shaking his head and managing a slight laugh. "If they are in the Florida State League pennant race, they're happy to see me go. I was killing them."
Part of the problem stemmed from the simple fact that Rolen had a long lay-off between actual at-bats. He hit .345 in 14 Grapefruit League games with the Jays before suffering the injury, but didn't step into a batter's box in another game until his first appearance with Dunedin.
"I've been hitting the whole time," Rolen said. "But you can't replicate seeing pitches. I hadn't seen a pitch in over a month, so you get in there and things seem to be faster. Everything got on me a little bit and hopefully I can come back.
"I can continue to take rehab at-bats, or I can try to contribute here. That's the decision and the way I wanted to go."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.