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NL top rookie Rolen credits his big break

Scott Rolen owes his National League Rookie of the Year Award to Steve Trachsel.

On Sept. 7, 1996, the Chicago pitcher broke Rolen's right forearm with a pitch in the third inning of the Cubs' game against the Phillies. At the time, Rolen had 130 at-bats _ the maximum a player is allowed before losing his rookie status.

"This would be a good time to thank Steve Trachsel, who was a big part of this," Rolen said Tuesday after he won unanimously. "At the time, I wasn't really happy with him. Now I might give him a call and thank him."

Philadelphia's 22-year-old third baseman broke the Los Angeles Dodgers' five-year hold on the award after becoming the youngest NL player to reach 90 RBI since Darryl Strawberry in 1984. Rolen led NL rookies in batting average (.283), runs (93), hits (159), doubles (35), homers (21) and RBI (92).

"I think I exceeded anything I could have fathomed," he said. "I hope I haven't reached a pinnacle now. I hope there's something more for me in baseball and in life."

Rolen was the Phillies' second-round pick in the June 1993 amateur draft. He became the first Philadelphia rookie to lead the team in homers and RBI since Greg Luzinski in 1972, and he had the most homers and RBI for a Phillies rookie since Willie Montanez in 1971.

Rolen accomplished this while playing for a last-place team that went 68-94 and finished 33 games out of first.

"It wasn't difficult to go out and play hard and play to win," he said. "We won four games in June. That doesn't mean I'm just going to come in and say, "We'll be better in two years.'

"In July, August and September, we turned it around. Hopefully, we can go into spring training and take it from there."

Dodgers had won the award since 1992, an unprecedented streak established by Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Todd Hollandsworth.

Livan Hernandez, the Cuban defector who went 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA for the Florida Marlins, tied for second with Matt Morris, 12-9 with a 3.19 ERA for the St. Louis Cardinals. Each had 25 points.