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Rolen close to rejoining Jays

Rolen close to rejoining Jays

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In a matter of days, the Blue Jays should finally have Scott Rolen in a Toronto uniform and manning third base. That was the plan when the Jays traded for Rolen in January, but one that went awry during an unfortunate mishap near the end of Spring Training.

Rolen is currently testing his recovering right middle finger in Minor League games with Class A Dunedin, but is due to be activated from the 15-day disabled list in the coming week. On Tuesday, Toronto manager John Gibbons indicated that Rolen could rejoin the Jays before the end of the club's current 10-day road trip.

"If all goes well," said Gibbons, sitting inside the visiting manager's office at Disney's Wide World of Sports. "As a matter of fact, that's what we're hoping."

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In a best-case scenario, that means Rolen might be ready in time to join the Blue Jays on the road in Kansas City, where the Royals are hosting Toronto in a three-game set this weekend, beginning Friday. Otherwise, Rolen could be on hand in Boston for Toronto's series on April 29-May 1.

The hope is that Rolen will not only strengthen Toronto's already-impressive defense, but he will provide a boost to an offense that has labored in the season's early goings. Rolen's bat becomes even more important in the wake of the Blue Jays releasing veteran slugger Frank Thomas on Sunday.

"It's not even that," said Gibbons, when asked how much Rolen could aid the lineup. "It's just having him around. He's a guy we brought here for a reason, and we haven't had him. The guy is a winner and he's a big part of this.

"You get an emotional lift, but you can't expect Scotty to carry the team. They've all got to do it."

Rolen made his first rehab appearance with Dunedin on Sunday, going 0-for-3 as a designated hitter. On Monday, Rolen was scheduled to play again, but he was forced to sit out after suffering flu-like symptoms. The 33-year-old third baseman will likely need a couple more Minor League games before coming off the DL.

Gibbons said that he expects Rolen to be able to immediately step in as Toronto's third baseman, though the manager didn't rule out occasionally using him as a DH. With Thomas out of the picture, a majority of the DH duties will fall to Matt Stairs, who also serves as an outfielder for the Jays.

"If we needed to give [Rolen] a day off or something," Gibbons said, "we could let him DH a little bit. But when he gets back, he should be good to go. He's a tough dude. He's played with a lot of pain in his career, but he shows up to play."

Gibbons was referring to Rolen's recent tours in St. Louis, where he dealt with left shoulder issues throughout the past few seasons with the Cardinals. Last year, Rolen hit .265 with eight home runs and 58 RBIs in 112 games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in September.

The primary goal of the operation was to remove some scar tissue that was left over from a previous surgery on the same shoulder. Even with that injury history, Toronto didn't hesitate to trade third baseman Troy Glaus to St. Louis in January to acquire Rolen, who displayed no lingering issues with his shoulder during Spring Training.

On March 23, though, Rolen had a line drive strike the middle finger of his throwing hand during a routine fielding drill on a practice diamond at the Jays' spring ballpark. He suffered a non-displaced fracture of the finger and underwent surgery the following day to have a pin inserted into the digit to stabilize the bone.

Rolen had the pin removed on April 7 and resumed throwing the following day. He hesitated to add fielding drills to his daily workouts until just recently, but Gibbons didn't believe that Rolen -- a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner -- would need much time to get back up to speed at third base.

"He's one of the best all-time over there," Gibbons said.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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