Rolen ready to go with 2nd chance

Updated: October 12, 2004, 8:18 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- In a display more commonly associated with hockey, the Los Angeles Dodgers congratulated the St. Louis Cardinals on the field after losing the decisive Game 4 of the NL division series.

Maybe it'll become a baseball tradition, too. There's a chance the Houston Astros and Cardinals will show a similar display of sportsmanship after the NLCS because there's been virtually no animosity between the teams.

"There's a big-time mutual respect," Astros left fielder Craig Biggio said. "I think there's a lot of professionalism on both sides."

Biggio's first reaction when he saw players from opposing teams shaking hands and embracing was "Wow, that's kind of classy."

"But you've got to get the other side to reciprocate, especially if you're the one that wins."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said all the feedback he's received has been positive, although he wasn't sure if the NLCS will have a similar coda. He and Astros manager Phil Garner have not discussed the topic.

"I don't know if it will come up," La Russa said. "I don't know if it's a one-time deal or you'll see it."

Cardinals reliever Steve Kline called it a "class act" by the Dodgers.

"That's big for a lot of people to see that in baseball and in sports, period," Kline said. "In today's world everything is so competitive and it's hard to do, shake someone's hand right after you've just lost."

Still, everyone wasn't totally diplomatic on Tuesday, the day before the series began. Cardinals setup man Julian Tavarez pulled no punches when assessing the relative strengths of the teams.

"We don't look at the Houston Astros like this is a great team," Tavarez said. "They are good but we are better than them.

"We are the best because we've got 108 wins. We've proved it. We are the best."

Second Chance: Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen missed the 2002 NLCS after separating his shoulder in a division series baserunning collision. But he doesn't feel any extra incentive in his first shot since then, and his first NLCS period.

"There's nothing you can do about it," Rolen said. "You don't hang your head getting a chance to play in the playoffs at any time, and right now is a great opportunity."

Even if he's not 100 percent. Rolen missed 16 games in September with a strained calf and enters the second round in a 3-for-29 slump because he's struggled with his timing.

"I'm not the only one hurt on the field," Rolen said. "There's a lot of guys out there playing hurt. You have a broken leg, you're going to try to get out there because we have a chance to play in a World Series."

La Russa said he'll take Rolen any day, even if he's not at his best.

"Every day that he didn't play I didn't think we had as good of a chance to win," La Russa said. "Every day he's in the ballgame I think we have a chance to win.

"Sometimes you have to go beyond the stats."

No Deal: The Astros resisted the temptation to unload Carlos Beltran at the trading deadline, a little more than a month after they acquired the star center fielder from the Royals. And just before their season took off.

Beltran said he had been told a few times by general manager Gerry Hunsicker that he would not be traded.

"I was a little bit worried for me," Beltran said. "But when we found a way to turn the season around and we saw ourselves like three games behind in the wild card, I knew that I was going to stay with the club and I was very happy.

"It's been a great experience being around Bagwell, Biggio, Clemens -- all these guys."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press