Rolen's season could be done

Rolen may have season-ending surgery

ST. LOUIS -- After receiving a second opinion on his troublesome left shoulder, Scott Rolen has come to one conclusion: He will need additional surgery, a significant procedure to repair his labrum. One question remains, however, and it's a big one: when?

Rolen needs to decide soon whether to undergo the operation now, eliminating any chance of playing again in 2005, or to wait until after the season and hope that further rehabilitation allows him to tough it out during September and the postseason. After visiting with Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Reds' head team physician, Rolen is under the impression that the latter may not be much of an option.

"It was put to me, from Dr. Kremchek, that, 'you need to have surgery,' " Rolen told reporters on Thursday afternoon. " 'When all the smoke clears,' he says, 'you don't have any options. You have to have surgery.'

"The timing is the issue. That's the decision that I have to make. And he was not optimistic about me being able to rehab and come back and do anything -- compete, play. He's not optimistic."

Surgery would likely sideline Rolen for approximately six months. Thus, if he were to have an operation soon, he would likely be able to come back for Spring Training. If he waits until the end of the season, he'd be looking at missing a portion of the 2006 season. The Cardinals' position atop the National League Central, and their shot at a World Series title, complicate the decision.

"This team is on its way to the playoffs," Rolen said. "A lot of people can argue whatever they want, but at one point, I believe we were the best team in baseball. We have a lot of guys injured, but we're still in great position. We're still headed, hopefully, to the playoffs. If we can do this, if we can hang on, I have a chance of being part of something pretty special -- or I walk around in a sling.

"So that's a big decision. One of the questions is: What's my best chance to win a ring as a St. Louis Cardinal? It might be not to play. That's not easy. That's not an easy decision, to say I can't help this team -- I can hurt this team, but I can't help this team, so my best shot of helping this team win a World Series is to not play. That's not an easy decision to make."

A collision with Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi on May 10 sent Rolen to the disabled list. Shortly after the collision, Cardinals team physician Dr. George Paletta performed arthroscopic surgery on the labrum, and Rolen and the Cardinals believed that no further procedure was necessary. Rolen returned to the active roster on June 19, played for just over a month and was shut down again after he continued to show disappointing progress.

When rehabilitation did not progress to Rolen's liking, he went for a second opinion with Kremchek. The Reds doctor determined that Rolen's labrum still needs significant repairing, and that Rolen's shoulder does not remain stably in its socket.

"What was done was correctly done," Rolen said. "Dr. Paletta did a good job on the surgery. I'm not going to make a decision in May to end my season. I had options. I had a very good chance to rehab the thing and to come back and not have problems. But as to this point, it didn't happen."

Rolen emphasized that he is willing and eager to play through pain. The problem, however, is that his shoulder is not stable enough to permit him to take the field.

"It wasn't a pain issue that made me go, 'I'm not healthy. I can't play,' " he said. "I was in pain, but it wasn't what caused the problem. What caused the problem is I could not play baseball. I was not healthy enough physically to go out on the field and play baseball. I couldn't swing a bat. I couldn't make contact with the baseball at all. I had no chance. So what, you're going to get pain. Everybody's in pain -- I couldn't play.

"That's the decision that I had. My decision is not going to be a pain decision, a pain issue. My decision is going to be, am I able to play baseball? And I couldn't before. And if I can't lift my arm to get a shirt down, I can't play baseball."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.