Notes: 0-for-2 a perfect day for Rolen

Notes: 0-for-2 a perfect day for Rolen

JUPITER, Fla. -- The box score reads 0-for-2, but Scott Rolen evaluates his first game in nearly eight months by a different standard.

"I was 3-for-3 today -- two at-bats and a dive," Rolen said. "That's the way I look at it."

Playing for the first time since July 21 of last season, Rolen played five innings in the field and took two at-bats. He moved a runner over with a grounder in the first inning and hit a sharp line drive out to first base in the third. He handled three defensive chances without incident, and dove for a ball out of his reach.

"I thought about the dive a little bit," said Rolen. "I dove. I wasn't not going to dive, but normally you don't think about diving. You think about fielding the ball. I thought, 'I'm going to dive.' It's a distraction from what you're actually doing, but that's the idea from being out here."

Rolen, who underwent major shoulder surgery in August to repair damage from a May 10 collision, will build up gradually as the spring goes on. He's slated to make his next game appearance on Thursday.

"The at-bats are going to be the biggest thing, how I respond to at-bats, and how I respond from at-bat to at-bat," he said. "You go out in the field and you cool it down a little bit, and then you crank it up and get back, and I had no problem."

Initially, Rolen was written in as the leadoff man for the Cards in order to get him his at-bats and get him out of the game. But upon further review, he was dropped to the No. 2 spot with David Eckstein leading off.

"I just talked to Scott about his first at-bat, and he's not just going to take," manager Tony La Russa said before the game. "If David gets on second base, he'll go to right field."

La Russa's prediction was proved eerily accurate when Eckstein opened the game with a bloop-double to center field. Rolen fell behind, 0-2, worked a 3-2 count and bounced a ball to the right side to move Eckstein over. Eckstein scored on John Gall's sacrifice fly.

"I was trying to move him over the whole way," Rolen said. "At 3-2, he threw me a good ball to hit, I controlled the bat and hit the ball over there."

Rolen's first defensive chance came half an inning later. With a runner on third and one out, he cleanly fielded a soft chopper on the run and threw out Ramon Martinez at first base.

The six-time Gold Glover made his first dive of the spring shortly thereafter, laying out in an attempt to stab Andy LaRoche's ball down the line. He came up short, and LaRoche was credited with a double, but he got right up and kept on going.

He capped off his day at the plate with a liner to first to lead off the third inning. In his final inning, the top of the fifth, he fielded two foul popups.

"I thought he looked really good," said La Russa. "I thought he was probably ahead for his first game."

Rodriguez sidelined: John Rodriguez has been diagnosed with fluid in the AC joint of his left shoulder and will be out for approximately two more days. Rodriguez underwent an MRI on Monday and received the results Tuesday.

"This is something that should go away," he said. "Hopefully it goes away faster than normal, but we'll see."

Rodriguez said that he first felt discomfort in his shoulder late in the 2005 regular season.

Ank's progress: It's been an encouraging few days for Rick Ankiel, who is recovering from a strained left patellar tendon. Ankiel sustained the injury on Feb. 27 and will undergo another MRI exam within the next week.

"The last few days have really been positive days for me," Ankiel said.

Ankiel has been taking batting practice in the cages and increasing the weight work he does with his left leg. However, he's still not permitted to run -- though that may come by the end of this week.

"I'm just putting more weight on that knee to see how it rebounds," he said. "Tomorrow morning will be a big day for me to see how it feels after all the work today."

Nelson's debut: The reports were that Jeff Nelson is a slow starter in Spring Training, but his first game appearance in a Cardinals uniform didn't support that notion. In his Spring Training debut, Nelson faced three batters, inducing foul popups from all three.

"It's always good to get the first one out of the way," he said. "I was nervous. The wind was blowing. You don't know what to expect. You're coming to a new team. Even though you know all you've got to do is stay healthy, you try to do and impress as much as you can."

Suppan improves: Jeff Suppan had nowhere to go but up, performance-wise, following his first start of the spring -- when he allowed nine runs in 1 2/3 innings. He wasn't perfect his second time out, but he was a lot closer to where he wanted to be.

Suppan was charged with three runs on five hits in three innings, striking out two and walking two. He's still not throwing his full repertoire.

"There are certain situations that I might have gone to a cutter here or there, but I'm trying to just focus on staying with locating that fastball," he said. "And it was better. I felt good going three innings, up-down, getting rest in between and going back out there."

Suppan's ERA for the spring dropped from 60.75 to 24.92. His next outing will be Sunday against the Braves in Orlando.

Missing Miles: Aaron Miles hasn't made a game appearance since his 5-for-6 showing against the Mets on Friday night, and on Tuesday, La Russa revealed why. The infielder has been dealing with what the manager called a "jammed" left wrist, which he sustained in that game at Port St. Lucie.

First cuts: The Cardinals trimmed their Major League Spring Training contingent by nine players on Tuesday morning. Left-hander Chris Narveson, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

Eight non-roster players were re-assigned to Minor League camp: right-handers Andy Cavazos and Dennis Tankersley, lefties Randy Leek and Rich Rundles, catchers Jason Motte and Bryan Anderson, infielder Dave Berg and infielder/catcher Kit Pellow.

The cuts leave the Cardinals with 50 players in big league camp.

More medical updates: Larry Bigbie, battling some pain in his thigh, is expected to make the trip and play in Wednesday's game against Washington. ... It's unclear when Jim Edmonds will return to game action; he is sidelined with a bruised foot. ... Travis Hanson left camp on Tuesday morning due to a flu-like illness.

Bits and pieces: Anthony Reyes will start Thursday's home game against Florida, with Sidney Ponson as the second pitcher. The last time both men pitched, Ponson started and Reyes relieved. ... Minor League camp opened on Tuesday with physicals and the first workout. Minor League Spring Training games begin March 15.

Quotable: "He's got special talent and he's got a special attitude. Guys who have that play in the big leagues." -- La Russa, on Chris Duncan, who launched a monstrous home run on Monday

Weather report: It'll be a little bit cooler up the coast than it has been in Jupiter, but the conditions should still be very nice for baseball. The forecast for Viera/Melbourne calls for a high of 73, a few clouds, no rain and very light winds.

Coming up: The Cardinals make the long trip up to Viera on Wednesday to play the Nationals for the first time this spring. Chris Carpenter will make his second start of the year for St. Louis, while Kyle Denney takes the mound for Washington.

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