Notes: Rolen continues comeback

Notes: Rolen continues on comeback trail

JUPITER, Fla. -- Scott Rolen took another step on his comeback trail on Thursday when he faced live pitching during batting practice. The third baseman saw only six pitches from veteran right-hander Alan Benes and, as per instruction from the coaching staff, Rolen didn't swing the bat. Even so, it seemed normal to Rolen, and at this stage of his career normal is a very good thing.

"No different than any other year," Rolen said. "Played it the same as every year, no swings the first time out."

Rolen, 30, was limited to only 56 games last season after colliding with Los Angeles first baseman Hee Seop Choi in a game on May 10. He underwent surgery on Aug. 29 to repair a damaged left labrum, and was cleared to play only last week.

The Cardinals want their cleanup hitter to take small steps and will watch his progress closely.

"I'm not in any rush," Rolen said. "There's two programs floating around, one is [to] lay low, the longer you take the stronger you'll get. The other is pretty much the same, basically to take things slow and let how things go decide [when he will play in a game]."

Rolen said he felt great and was very pleased with how he felt physically. He also was pleased with his fielding.

So far so good, and yet it is still too early to predict when the six-time Gold Glover will play in his first Grapefruit League game. The Cardinals open their exhibition schedule on March 1.

"March 2, if I get an AB that's great, if I don't, that's OK too," Rolen said.

March 8 or 9 would probably be a more likely date.

"I don't have any problem with that," Rolen said. "We'll see how it goes."

Encarnacion arrives: Outfielder Juan Encarnacion arrived in camp Thursday, but not in time to participate in the morning workout at the Cardinals complex.

Encarnacion had been held up in the Dominican Republic awaiting a work visa. Two other Cardinals who are also Dominican natives, infielder Deivi Cruz and pitcher Juan Mateo, were expected to be in camp on Friday.

"Some papers [didn't] get to [the government] in time," Encarnacion explained when asked about the delay. "Before you would go and get the papers; now there's different rules. You've got to call to make the appointment."

Encarnacion took some cuts in the batting cage and is looking forward to joining his new team. He signed a three-year $15 million contract with the Cardinals as a free agent during the offseason. Encarnacion, who hit .287 with 16 homers and 76 RBIs for the Marlins last season, is expected to be the starting right fielder.

"I'm excited," he said. "This is a good team, they wanted me [and] I'm glad to be here."

Encarnacion could be used as high as second in the order, but he's hit as low as seventh during his nine-year career. Encarnacion said it doesn't matter to him.

"Whatever [La Russa] wants to do," Encarnacion said. "I'm OK with it."

Eckstein hits: David Eckstein was among the veteran Cardinals who faced live pitching on Thursday for the first time since camp opened.

Well, sort of.

"I had been facing live pitching right up until I came here," Eckstein said. "So it wasn't as different for me today as maybe some other guys."

The Cardinals shortstop had been working out in Orlando with other Major Leaguers, including Dan Miceli and Danny Graves, who pitched batting practice to Eckstein.

"I think it's going to help me," Eckstein said. "I only saw six pitches, so you can't really tell from today, but I think in the long run [the workouts at home] will help me."

Extra bases: The Cardinals signed pitchers Anthony Reyes and Brad Thompson and outfielder Rick Ankiel to one-year deals on Thursday. The signings leaves St. Louis with five unsigned players on the roster. ... Veteran third baseman Scott Spiezio, in camp as a non-roster invitee, is trying to win a spot as a backup infielder. The 33-year-old is a career .253 hitter, and he's a switch-hitter with experience at three infield spots and both corner outfield positions. Spiezio's chances would be improved if he has a good spring. "He's got a track record. He's been a winning contributor on a championship club," La Russa said. "He's going through the drill." ... Cardinals players will have their annual meeting with representatives from the Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday morning. ... Albert Pujols was fine Thursday, the day after the Cardinals slugger was hit by a pitch from John Webb during Wednesday's batting practice session.

Quotable: "He's so gifted on the defensive part of the game. He could have gone Oh-for-the-season and he would still have been our starter." -- La Russa, on catcher Yadier Molina

Weather report: Another bluebird day is forecast for the Redbirds workouts as blue skies with few clouds and temperatures climbing to the mid-80s are predicted for the morning workout.

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