Rolen and La Russa have been at odds for several years, apparently over La Russa's handling of several matters, including Rolen's troublesome left shoulder, which has forced him to undergo three surgeries. The last two have been done by Dr. Timothy Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds' medical supervisor.
The first surgery performed by Kremchek, a reconstructive procedure in 2005, came after Rolen's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, threatened legal action to gain the club's consent to use a doctor outside the organization. Rolen, who earlier had been operated on by Dr. George Paletta, the Cardinals' medical supervisor, prohibited a Cardinals doctor from assisting on Kremchek's surgery.
Kremchek also performed a clean-up procedure in September after Rolen had declared himself unable to play.
"Scott hasn't been critical of the Cincinnati doctor," La Russa said. "He just went in and did it like nothing.
"If our guy had had to go back for a second surgery, based on (Rolen's) comments about the way it was handled, (the doctor) would have been crucified."
La Russa, in a letter he sent to Rolen after the season, reportedly challenged Rolen to be the player he used to be, rather than the one who hit .265 with eight homers and 58 RBIs in 2007.
Rolen reportedly was not happy with the letter, but La Russa said, "He can play mad every day if he wants to. That's OK."
Rolen's agents had beseeched general manager John Mozeliak to make an offseason trade, but the Milwaukee Brewers, who had left-hander Chris Capuano available, backed off, as did the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants -- at least for the moment.
"He's got a contract to play, and we need him to play," La Russa said.
Rolen, who has $36 million left over the last three years of his deal, responded to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer by e-mail, saying his disagreements with La Russa were "matters that I never discussed publicly and are matters that should have remained private. I will not dignify Tony's comments with any response at this time."
NOTES AND QUOTES
--OF So Taguchi, signed by the Cardinals before the 2002 season, was released. Taguchi hit .290 last season and averaged .283 for his career with the Cardinals, but management thought the 38-year-old was slipping defensively. The Cardinals filled his spot on the roster by selecting CF Brian Barton from the Cleveland organization in the Rule 5 draft. Barton hit .314 at Class AA Akron and .264 at Class AAA Buffalo.
--OF John Rodriguez, a member of the 2006 World Series championship team, was released. Rodriguez was injured much of the season while at Class AAA Memphis.
--CF Colby Rasmus, who starred for the U.S. team that recently won the World Cup tournament Taiwan, drew the most interest from other teams at the winter meetings, but the Cardinals didn't discuss trading him.
--To potentially fill out their rotation, the Cardinals may be kicking the tires on veteran RHPs Bartolo Colon and Kris Benson. Colon, 6-8 with the Los Angeles Angels in 2007, missed half of the season with injuries. Benson was sidelined all year after shoulder surgery. The Cardinals also have interest in RHP Josh Fogg, who was in the rotation for the National League champion Colorado Rockies.
--OF Rick Ankiel, who reportedly received human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that is under investigation, will not be penalized by Major League Baseball. The commissioner's office said it had insufficient evidence to penalize him.
BY THE NUMBERS: .331 -- 3B Scott Rolen's on-base average last season. It was the second worst mark of his career.