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After feud in St. Louis, Rolen was ready for change

TORONTO -- His relationship with manager Tony La Russa
growing more strained, Scott Rolen expected life to be
uncomfortable if he stayed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Offered a chance with a new team, Rolen sat down to discuss
things with his family. Everyone soon agreed: Rolen would waive his
no-trade clause and join the Toronto Blue Jays in a deal that sent
Troy Glaus the other way.

"This is an opportunity we couldn't pass up," Rolen said
Tuesday evening at an introductory press conference. "It's a great
fresh start for me in my career, and my family."

Rolen and La Russa, the longtime Cardinals manager, have clashed
since the 2006 playoffs, when La Russa benched the third baseman.
Rolen requested a trade after last season.

La Russa, who signed a two-year contract extension in October,
was still talking tough at the winter meetings in December, saying
if Rolen played hard, he'd be in the lineup and if he didn't, he'd
be on the bench.

"If he doesn't like it, he can quit," La Russa said.

Rolen joined the Cardinals in a midseason trade from
Philadelphia in 2002 and helped St. Louis reach the World Series
twice, falling to Boston in 2004 before beating Detroit in 2006.

"I don't regret the time I was there at all," Rolen said.
"There were some unfortunate things that went on that aren't
significant to me sitting on this podium in this uniform right
now."

With Glaus bothered by heel and foot injuries aggravated by
playing home games on turf, Blue Jays general manager J.P.
Ricciardi began inquiring about Rolen at the winter meetings. He
said he was never put off by Rolen's feud with La Russa.

"This is a situation where a player had an incident with a
manager," Ricciardi said. "It doesn't mean one is right and one
is wrong. It just means sometimes you have to move on from it. I
don't sit here and let one incident say this is what type of guy
the player is."

Rolen doesn't intend to use his spat with La Russa as
motivation.

"To go out and try to prove to somebody else, whatever your
motives, I'm not sure if that's healthy," Rolen said. "I want to
focus all my attention and my competition on the field. Too many
times the last year, year-and-a-half, some of the focus was off the
field instead of on the field, where it should stay."

A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Rolen's
offense has declined since a collision with Dodgers first baseman
Hee-Seop Choi in May 2005. The 32-year old missed 176 games due
because of a lingering left-shoulder injury over the past three
seasons.

Rolen had eight homers and 58 RBIs in 112 games last year, but
said his tender left elbow hampered his swing until he was shut
down on Aug. 31.

"I couldn't get the bat back where I needed to," he said.
"That was my biggest problem. I was basically just diving at balls
and trying to run into stuff. It was a pretty painful four
months."

Rolen had season-ending surgery in September to clean up scar
tissue and restore mobility and has since been cleared to resume
hitting and fielding drills.

"I feel as good and as strong as I've been in the last three
years, by far," he said. "I feel right now that I'm back where I
wanted to be before all the destruction. I don't have any
restrictions right now."

Rolen has three years and $36 million still left on an
eight-year, $90 million deal he signed in 2003.

"There's a lot of things Scott can do that are going to help
our club," Ricciardi said. "Defensively, he's one of the best.
He's a good hitter, he hits right-handers really well. I think the
power will come back, I think playing in this ballpark helps a
little bit. Obviously, the whole deal was premised on the fact that
we had good reports, medically, from several people. We wouldn't
have done the deal if we didn't feel comfortable that way."

The trade to Toronto reunites Rolen with shortstop
David Eckstein, who signed a two-year deal with the Blue Jays last month.

"It'll be nice to stay together and have a familiar face right
away," Rolen said.