Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 4/26/12
CINCINNATI If there is one thing a major-league baseball player seeks for himself, other than a big, juicy raise and a long-term contract, it consists of one word: consistency. And Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen is no different and, in fact, during the first three weeks of the season he has found it. "I've been really very consistent," he said. "I've been consistently terrible." When the Reds began their 18th game this week, Rolen was taking a bat to home plate for no apparent reason. His average was .175 and he had no home runs. And he said he felt as comfortable in the batter's box as a guy strapped into the electric chair. On Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants, Rolen had a late-game two-run double during a 9-2 win to break a power outage longer than anything New York's electric supplier ever endured. "I did not feel it coming around and it was a long road getting to that double," he said. "It wasn't fun getting to that double. But you go home 1 for 4 with two RBIs and you'll take that any time. You are driving in runs, but in the back of your mind while you are at home, you say, 'Can I repeat it tomorrow?' At that time, I knew I couldn't repeat that swing and that approach. I haven't been able to get into position to repeat that swing." And, sure enough, when he took batting practice before Wednesday's game, "It was horrendous, just awful and I was thinking, 'How is this going to work again?' I just wasn't able to repeat swings, good swings." His problems early may be the by-product of something he tried during spring training. And while it worked during spring training, he wasn't able to carry it into the season, "So I crap-canned it, tossed it all in the waste basket six weeks of work. I was asking more from my swing than I was able to produce for where I was physically." After his frustrating batting practice session Wednesday, Rolen met with batting coach Brook Jacoby before the game and decided, "Just shorten things up. We made some adjustments," he said. So Rolen came to bat in the seventh inning Wednesday night, his team gasping for life, trailing Barry Zito, 2-0. Rolen worked the count to 3-and-2, then drove his first home run of the season into the left field seats, torching a four-run inning that carried the Reds to a 4-2 victory. Manager Dusty Baker gave him the Thursday afternoon off, but Rolen was part of a double switch late in the game and when he came to the plate he drove a 429-foot home run into the left field seats, a run that gave the Reds a three-run lead in the seventh inning. But closer Sean Marshall was crushed by a one-out 1-and-2 three-run home in the ninth by the Giants' Angel Pagan for a 6-5 San Francisco victory. "I just simplified everything and from my first at-bat Wednesday I could feel a difference," he said. "I was seeing the ball better than I had, seeing it great. I felt things that I want to feel, especially with my hands. I was to the point where I wanted to get back to the plate instead of dreading it." After his home run Wednesday, a television interviewer asked Rolen, "Was that like getting a monkey off your back?" Said Rolen, "He was trying to be nice because I've struggled so bad, and he tried to word it nicely with the TV camera on, so I said, 'No, no, no. It's not a monkey off my back. It's a career-saver.'" Rolen is a 37-year-old veteran who has been through grinders before and survived, but they haven't occurred at the start of the season when the numbers are so glaringly awful. "It isn't like in mid-season when you have a bad spell for 50 at-bats in August and your average drops from .290 at the end of July to .274," he said. "When you start slow at the beginning of the season, the numbers are ugly. "It does bother you," said Rolen. "The numbers you see are a killer. They can help you or hurt you in arbitration and in contract negotiations." Rolen, though, had a novel idea. "I'd love to see what the game might look like without the statistics," he said. "Then the team's would have to decide without numbers and statistics, 'Who do we need, who are our best players?' That's not the real world because you are judged by numbers." Rolen said he felt something like this during the 2004 playoffs when he was with St. Louis. He hit .310 during a seven-game League Championship Series against Houston, then went 0 for 15 in the World Series against Boston. "I couldn't get a hit," he said. "You play for seven months and you bust your butt and you are swinging and swinging and swinging and all of a sudden you see zeros everywhere and you say, 'Whoa, wait a minute.'" During those seven months, Rolen hit .314 with 34 home runs and 124 RBIs. So with the chalk talk with Jacoby and the home run, Rolen hopes he is Back to the Future, the start of his season is ancient history and his future is more like what he has been during his career consistent. Consistently good. "If I can take strong swings, be balanced in the lower half of my body, I will take my chances," he said.
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