Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen -- obtained in a trade with the Cardinals in January -- won't be in the lineup for Toronto's opener against the Yankees on March 31. After undergoing surgery to repair a non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger on Monday, Rolen is headed to the disabled list and may miss the season's first month.
Standing outside the visitors' clubhouse at Ed Smith Stadium on Monday, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi downplayed Rolen's injury, which is the result of a freak accident the third baseman sustained during fielding drills on Sunday morning. Ricciardi said the loss wasn't a major blow to Toronto, which will be without Rolen for a minimum of two weeks.
"Our bench is as deep as it's ever been," Ricciardi said. "A major blow would be if we lost someone for the year of that caliber. Unfortunately, we've been through this before and guys have stepped up. We've been through adversity. It's not something you wish for, but we're better built to handle it now.
"In the course of the year, guys go down," he added. "It just happens to be at the start of the year, and everybody looks at the first game of the season like it's the World Series. It's unfortunate, but what are you going to do?"
For now, the Blue Jays will have utilityman Marco Scutaro -- acquired in a November trade with the A's -- fill in as the third baseman until Rolen returns. During routine drills on Sunday, Rolen broke his finger, ripping the fingernail off in the process. Rolen headed to Baltimore, where he had the surgery performed by Dr. Thomas Graham.
Graham, who operated on Jays catcher Gregg Zaun's broken right hand last season, inserted a pin into the tip of the middle finger on Rolen's throwing hand. Ricciardi said Rolen isn't scheduled to have the pin removed for two weeks, and the third baseman's status would be reevaluated at that point.
"He's going to have the screw in there for 14 days," Ricciardi said. "Then they take the screw out, and he starts moving his hand and things like that. Then, basically it's tolerance at that point. It's definitely two weeks, and it's probably going to be a little longer than two weeks.
"A lot of times, when you go through these injuries," he added later, "it's the individual and his pain tolerance. I've got to believe Scotty is going to be a hard guy to hold down. We might have to hold him down, as opposed to him wanting to go faster than we want him to go."
In January, Toronto sent third baseman Troy Glaus to St. Louis in a one-for-one swap in order to acquire the 32-year-old Rolen. The third baseman is coming back from an injury-marred 2007 campaign, in which he hit .265 with eight home runs and 58 RBIs in 112 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in September.
Rolen, who is a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, figures to be an integral part of Toronto's defense and offense this season. When he returns to the order, Rolen likely will bat in the heart of the lineup. This spring, he was hitting .345 with one home run in 14 games.
Ricciardi noted that Rolen, who is scheduled to make $11 million in each of the 2008-10 seasons, still can field ground balls and do some light hitting work -- likely one-handed for the time being. Rolen was scheduled to fly back to Florida on Tuesday, and Ricciardi wasn't sure if the third baseman would leave Spring Training with the team on Friday.
With Rolen temporarily out of the picture, the Blue Jays have a vacancy on their roster. Toronto manager John Gibbons said outfielder Buck Coats, who was in the lineup against the Reds on Monday night, was being considered for the job. Coats, who entered Monday with a .409 spring average, was acquired in a trade with the Reds in December.
"We brought Coats back over. We recalled him," Gibbons said. "There's a good chance he might be that guy -- that kind of guy -- because he can do a lot of things. That's no guarantee, but we like what we've seen. Also, a pinch-runner is a big thing for our team."
Gibbons said Toronto would stick with 12 pitchers on its staff, and Ricciardi later added that the club would not look outside the organizational for another bat. Toronto's GM also noted that the Jays will not carry three catchers, meaning the team will either carry an extra outfielder or infielder until Rolen returns.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less