GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Cincinnati Reds expect to compete for a National League pennant this year despite a roster that's young in several places. It got even younger this week when veteran third baseman Scott Rolen declined an invitation to come to spring training camp.
"He brought our average age down," said general manager Walt Jocketty. "I thanked him for that."
Rolen, 37, is the only third baseman in history with at least 2,000 hits, 500 doubles, 300 homers, 1,200 RBIs and six Gold Glove awards. But he’s been slowed by back and shoulder injuries in recent years. In a statement this week, Rolen said he wants to leave his options open, "without closing any doors."
The Reds are set up nicely without him. Todd Frazier, who finished third in NL Rookie of the Year balloting, slides in at third base, and former MVP Joey Votto is hoping to rediscover his old MVP form at first base after having the winter to recover from a knee injury.
The general consensus is that Rolen wants to slide into retirement with a minimum of hoopla or emotion. But Jocketty wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Rolen would get the itch and decide he wants to play again.
"He told me he’s at a place right now where he’s really enjoying the time with his family and he wasn’t ready to make the commitment to come in," Jocketty said. “He apologized for dragging it out so long. I told him, 'We’re prepared either way. If you come in, great. If you don’t, we’ll make adjustments.' We’ll just have to see where we are at that point.'
"He’s had such a great career. I told him no matter what happens, at some point he needs to be recognized. He’s not the type of guy who’s going to want to go out and tour the country like some guys do. But he ought to be recognized in Cincinnati."
The last time Jocketty spoke to Rolen, about a week ago, he got the impression that Rolen is still in excellent shape. The Reds confirmed that’s the case recently when the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Matt Krause, conferred by phone with Rolen’s personal trainer.
Rolen achieved the bulk of his career success in Philadelphia and St. Louis, and he collected only 36 of his 316 home runs and 304 of his 2,077 hits in Cincinnati. But the Reds remember him warmly for his competitiveness and his wry sense of humor.
According to Baseball-reference.com, Rolen earned about $117 million over 17 seasons. It was Jocketty, then St. Louis’ general manager, who signed Rolen to an eight-year, $90 million contract extension after the Cardinals acquired him from Philadelphia by trade in July 2002.
"He’s thanked me several times for making him a millionaire," Jocketty said with a laugh.