Despite bosses' criticism, Phils' Rolen bides his time

THE BALTIMORE SUN

If the Philadelphia Phillies want third baseman Scott Rolen to stay with the club beyond this season, they have an interesting way of showing it. Club executive Dallas Green recently became the second Phillies management official this season to publicly criticize Rolen for his disappointing offensive performance.

"Scotty is satisfied with being a so-so player," Green said during a radio interview. "He's not a great player. In his mind, he probably thinks he's doing OK, but the fans in Philadelphia know otherwise. I think he can be greater, but his personality won't let him."

Earlier this season, Rolen had a falling out with manager Larry Bowa, who made critical comments about Rolen's offensive production.

He's signed through 2002, but the Phillies figure to trade him this winter if they think they will be unable to re-sign him. And some feel the negative comments about Rolen are an attempt to soften up fans in advance of what would be an unpopular deal, though general manager Ed Wade quickly denied Green was speaking for the team.

Rolen has been slow to fire back, saying only that he doesn't feel as welcome in the Phillies organization as he did before his 2001 offensive struggles (through Saturday, .293 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs) became such a hot topic of front-office conversation.

"We'll wait and see what happens in the off-season," Rolen told reporters Wednesday. "We're in a pennant race right now. We've got guys going all-out. The opinions of others don't matter to the guys who go out there every day."

The fact is that Rolen is not having a good offensive season, but the Phillies must be careful to keep that in perspective (in 2000, he finished at .298 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs). Rolen may not be a Chipper Jones-quality third baseman, but he still is a very valuable player at a position not easy to fill. Perhaps more importantly, he's just 26.

Where were you in 1925?

If you're the Detroit Tigers, maybe you're looking for a little more consistency right now.

The Tigers tied a major-league record recently by scoring exactly one run in five consecutive games, then proved on Wednesday night that there is no rhyme or reason to their disappointing 2001 season.

They tied a 76-year-old club record when they scored 13 runs in the top of the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers. Strangely enough, in the same game, Damion Easley tied another 1925 Tigers record, becoming the first player since Ty Cobb to go 6-for-6 in a nine-inning game.

"I knew it was special," said Easley, who had a home run and five singles, "but I didn't know it put me in the company of Ty Cobb."

Easley's achievement also was consistent with the Tigers' recent inconsistency. He was in an 0-for-18 slump entering the game.

Pirates not giving up

There was some grumbling in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse after another midseason roster shuffle sent several established players to contending clubs. But owner Kevin McClatchy insists the team is not in a new rebuilding cycle.

"With players like [Brian] Giles, [Jason] Kendall and [Aramis] Ramirez, I would hardly say we are rebuilding," McClatchy said. "From my standpoint, I've made it perfectly clear that we will be competitive."

Giles and Kendall were quoted in the local papers expressing doubts about the direction of the franchise, but McClatchy apparently had visions of the Minnesota Twins and Phillies dancing in his head when he approved the deals that dispatched Jason Schmidt, Mike Williams, John Vander Wal and Terry Mulholland to various playoff hopefuls.

"When you're 23 or 24 games below .500, you take a look at what you can do and make the necessary adjustments," McClatchy said. "Look at the Phillies last year. They traded Curt Schilling, and I'm sure everybody was making the same type of claims. But it has worked out for them this year. It would be bad if we did nothing - go into next year with the same team and pretend that everything is fine."

So far, no good

The Arizona Diamondbacks were expecting a little more from new starter Albie Lopez, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at the waiver deadline. Lopez is 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA in his three starts for the Diamondbacks and has contributed to the 3-12 slump the club rode into Friday's game.

Manager Bob Brenly and pitching coach Bob Welch say Lopez needs to depend more heavily on his off-speed stuff. Tuesday night against the Florida Marlins, he threw 82 pitches; 70 were fastballs or cut fastballs, a formula that seemed to appeal to the hitters.

Because Lopez is not a big-velocity guy - his fastball has been topping out in the low 90s recently - he'll need to mix it up more if he's going to help the Diamondbacks down the stretch.

'RJ' on a roll

Could Randy Johnson actually be getting better with age? At 38, the left-hander is showing no signs of dog-day fatigue, and his numbers over the past three weeks have been simply staggering.

In his past five appearances, the Big Unit has struck out 58 in 36 1/3 innings and given up just three earned runs (0.74 ERA) on 17 hits, dropping his major-league-leading ERA to 2.40.

If he can keep up that strikeout pace, he just might challenge Nolan Ryan's single-season record (383). Johnson has 267 and probably will make 10 more regular-season starts. He'll need to average nearly 12 strikeouts a start to get there.

Valiant attempt, but ...

Give Bret Saberhagen credit. He fought valiantly to come back from the shoulder injury that sabotaged a potentially great career, but his arm was just not as strong as his desire to continue pitching.

Saberhagen, 37, went back on the disabled list after leaving his start Tuesday night with more shoulder soreness. He hopes to come back before the end of the season but announced he will not try to return next year.

"I decided that this will be my last year," Saberhagen said. "This is it. I'm tired of the ups and downs. ... With my kids in town, I told them it's not fun anymore. It's fun when I'm competing, but there're a lot of aches and pains and headaches and all of the mental [stuff]. I'll try to finish up this year and help out the team, but then it will be time to call it quits."

Talk about poignant moments.

"My son said, 'Dad, I want to come out to wherever and see the last game you pitch,' " Saberhagen said. "I had to tell him, 'You just might have.' "

Proving everyone wrong

Jose Canseco apparently has something left. He's batting .291 (39-for-134) with 10 home runs and 25 RBIs in 37 games for the Chicago White Sox, leaving room to wonder if he has enough left to make a run at 500 home runs next season.

"I'm just healthy," Canseco said. "I don't even try to analyze it."

Canseco, at 37, has 456 career home runs. If he can hit 10 or 15 more by the end of this season, he would be in range of 500 next year, and then the debate can begin in earnest over whether he is a Hall of Fame-caliber player.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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