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Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Updated: October 11, 8:50 AM ET
Rolen says shoulder OK, expects to play entire NLCS

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Scott Rolen was on the bench for the St. Louis Cardinals' first-round clincher. He expects to be in the lineup throughout the National League Championship Series.

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Buster Olney looks at the 10 biggest matchups in the NL Championship Series. First up: Willie Randolph vs. Albert Pujols.

The Padres generally elected to go after Pujols, and the Cardinals' first baseman hurt San Diego, batting .333, banging away for a .600 slugging percentage; he had only one walk in four games. The Mets' manager will probably approach him more cautiously than Bruce Bochy did, issuing some intentional walks.

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Rolen said Tuesday he did not ask out of the lineup before Game 4 against the San Diego Padres due to fatigue and soreness in his surgically repaired left shoulder. He said he simply informed Tony La Russa about his condition after consulting with the team doctor, and left the decision in the manager's hands.

"I want to be in there for Game 1 through however many we play," Rolen said after the Cardinals worked out at Shea Stadium. "I'm ready to go. I feel fine."

A cortisone injection Sunday night, hours after the Cardinals finished off the Padres, should help one of the team's core players rejoin the lineup against the New York Mets on Wednesday night. Rolen was second on the team this season with 95 RBI despite a steep decline in the final month that he blamed on the shoulder.

La Russa expects Rolen, who was dropped from fourth to fifth in the order late in the season, to play against left-hander Tom Glavine. Rolen is a career .358 hitter against Glavine in 53 at-bats with two homers, seven RBI and 14 walks.

"I'd be optimistic that he would be in there," La Russa said.

La Russa seemed perturbed before Game 4 of the division series that Rolen had not mentioned the shoulder problem until Sunday. At the same time, he said Rolen's willingness to play hurt was admirable.

"That's why he didn't come out and say how sore he was, because you know he wants to play," La Russa said. "Here's a guy that's not fighting for a job, he's got security, and he just wants to be a part of it.

"I was never and am not now upset with Scott."

Scott Spiezio started that game at third base, going 1-for-4 with an RBI, and Rolen did not play. Rolen gives the Cardinals, only 83-78 in the regular season, more reason to feel they can match up with the Mets -- who won an NL-best 95 games and swept the Dodgers in the first round.

The Cardinals have been labeled a two-man team -- Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter, the reigning NL MVP and Cy Young Award winners.

Carpenter's first start will be in Game 3, after he helped clinch the division series. Pujols was hitless the last two games of the first round after getting five hits and driving in the go-ahead run the first two.

"I don't think two guys can carry the whole team," Pujols said. "I think there's a lot of fingers that you can point to different guys that get big hits for us, and who help us out where we are right now."

St. Louis enters the second round of the playoffs without a clear Game 4 starter. The Cardinals likely will go with 24-year-old rookie Anthony Reyes, who was left off the roster in the first round, over wildly inconsistent Jason Marquis, who finished the season with a 6.02 ERA.

Reclamation project Jeff Weaver, 8-14 with a 5.76 ERA for the Cardinals and Angels, who gave up on him in July, gets the call in Game 1. Weaver threw five scoreless innings in Game 2 of the first round.

Third Base
St. Louis Cardinals

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
142 22 95 94 .369 .296

"When you come to a team that's built to win and you have that opportunity to help that team succeed and get to the postseason, all of those things are motivation to get back to the guy that you know you are," Weaver said. "Maybe this is what was supposed to happen to get me to this point and enable me to get back to the postseason."

Rolen was 1-for-11 in the first round, the lone hit coming on a bloop double in the opener. He was hitless in four at-bats Saturday with two strikeouts. But he was among the league leaders in batting average much of the year, going into the All-Star break at .333 and finishing at .296 with 22 homers.

In September, he batted .225 with three homers and 14 RBI, with two of the homers and nine of the RBI coming in a two-game burst in the middle of the month.

"I don't think there's any question my September wasn't remarkable by any means," Rolen said. "I struggled through September a little bit, whether I was fatigued or whatever the situation was."

Now, he says those issues have been removed.

"I'm going to come in tomorrow and look at the lineup," Rolen said, "and hope I'm in there."