Spiezio replaces Rolen for Game 2

Updated: October 14, 2006, 2:02 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Scott Rolen's postseason slump landed him on the bench for Game 2 of the National League championship series. Manager Tony La Russa said his star third baseman may have himself to blame.

Rolen, 1-for-14 while dealing with a sore left shoulder, missed his second start of the postseason Friday night, sitting against Mets right-hander John Maine. La Russa said Rolen's stroke doesn't look right, and speculated that if he'd agreed to taking some time off in September he might be enjoying a more productive October.

La Russa said he tried to talk Rolen into resting for a few games in Houston, during the start of the Cardinals' seven-game losing streak that nearly cost them their third straight NL Central title.

"I sat him down for 10 minutes and explained it to him and my explanation was worthless," La Russa said about trying to rest him against the Astros. "He didn't want to hear it, didn't believe it, didn't understand it.

"I 'benched' him, which is so opposite of what that discussion was about."

Scott Spiezio replaced Rolen, who was 0-for-3 with a walk in Game 1, at third base and in the fifth spot in the order. Spiezio also filled in for Rolen in Game 4 of the division round after the All-Star third baseman informed La Russa he was having problems with fatigue and soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder.

La Russa said Rolen might play in Game 3 on Saturday in St. Louis against the Mets' Steve Trachsel.

Rolen was disappointed about being out of the lineup and finding out when he arrived at Shea Stadium and looked at the lineup card. When he left the stadium Thursday night he had no indication he might not play, and said he had not talked with La Russa.

He called it "Tony's decision."

"I'm disappointed and surprised a little bit," Rolen said. "I thought I'd be in the lineup today."

But he didn't want it to become an issue.

"This is not a time for an individual to be upset, when you're down 0-1 to the Mets in Shea Stadium," Rolen said. "Me being personally upset, I can sit in the corner for a couple of seconds and then I've got to get ready to go and get out there."

La Russa said the issue would not linger with him. He said he was simply filling out a lineup card that gave his team its best chance to win.

"I'm not going to create the problem and I can't believe he's going to create the problem," La Russa said. "So where's the problem, except that he's disappointed he's not playing."

Rolen disagreed in La Russa's assessment that something was wrong with his stroke.

"I felt like I had good at-bats, I felt like I was more in tune with the at-bats," Rolen said. "I fouled a few balls back that I would have liked to put in play, but all in all I didn't have any results."

Rolen said he didn't know if he was being singled out, given that the Cardinals' 3-4-5 hitters were 0-for-10 with two walks in Game 1. Collectively, Albert Pujols, Juan Encarnacion and Rolen were in a 2-for-35 slump.

"I'm not going to speculate on anything," Rolen said. "I'm going to put my uniform -- put my coat on -- I guess to start the game and see where I'm needed."

Rolen was the Cardinals' No. 2 run producer with 95 RBIs this season, but batted .225 in September as the shoulder became a problem. He took a cortisone injection Sunday night, hours after the Cardinals wrapped up their first-round series against the Padres.

During the meeting in Houston, La Russa said he told Rolen: "Scott, we lost when you were playing, we can lose without you playing and get you well."

"We wanted to get him here to October strong and fresh, which meant resting him," La Russa said. "He's really helped create some of these issues."

Game 1 against the Mets was his first appearance since receiving the injection.

"I think there's a couple, three pitches that are giving him problems," La Russa said. "His stroke is not normal for him."

Spiezio, a switch hitter, batted .272 in 119 games with 13 homers and 52 RBIs. He hit .251 batting left-handed and .318 right-handed.

"This guy has really had a good year for us. And that's why I think he's the guy for tonight," La Russa said.

Spiezio, a key member of the Angels team that won the 2002 World Series, was excited about the opportunity to start. He made the final out of St. Louis' 2-0 loss Thursday night, popping up as a pinch hitter against closer Billy Wagner with a runner on.

"I've kind of been filling in all year when he needs a break," Spiezio said. "I'm just going to go out and try to take it like a normal game."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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