Just when most baseball fans probably thought Juan Gonzalez was long gone, he's back.
Proud owner of two AL MVP awards and a pair of home run titles, Gonzalez is in camp this spring with the St. Louis Cardinals, hoping to revive a career that many figured was over.
``I feel like a rookie invited to big league camp after two years off,'' the 38-year-old outfielder said Tuesday in Jupiter, Fla. ``I'm coming back for a big challenge. This is opening doors for myself. I'm here working hard to see what happens.''
Gonzalez took part in the first day of full-squad workouts for the Cardinals. At 38, and away from the majors for two years, he's looking for any sort of job.
``He's got a spot that could be very helpful to us if he's got his game together and I've been told he does,'' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. ``He's going to get an opportunity to make the club.''
Scott Rolen, who feuded with La Russa in recent years, is definitely gone from St. Louis. The All-Star third baseman was upbeat as he arrived at Toronto's camp in Dunedin, Fla.
``It's exciting,'' said Rolen, traded from St. Louis to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus. ``It's like going to a new school or your first day of school. You walk in and you don't see or know anybody, it's challenging and exciting at the same time.''
Rolen will play alongside former St. Louis teammate David Eckstein. The Blue Jays signed the 5 1/2-foot shortstop as a free agent.
``The fans will take a liking to him right away,'' Rolen said. ``He's the little engine that could. He's going to be running around out here like his hair's on fire.''
The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, locked up the middle of their infield through 2013.
The Rangers and second baseman Ian Kinsler agreed on a five-year, $22 million contract Tuesday.
``It's a lot of money,'' Kinsler said at the Rangers' camp in Surprise, Ariz. ``I've never imagined being in this position in my life.''
The deal comes about a year after the Rangers signed All-Star shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension.
Kinsler, who made $390,708 in 2007, said he is ``not really too worried about'' the pressures that arrive with a big salary.
ayed the game and what I did on the field.''
The 24-year-old Kinsler finished 2006 at .286 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs and led AL rookies with 27 doubles. His batting average dropped to .263 last season, but he had 20 home runs and 23 steals. He was one of six AL players with at least 20 homers and 20 steals.
Gonzalez last appeared in the big leagues in 2005. He got only one at-bat that season for Cleveland and it did not go well - he tore his hamstring and was out for the year.
Gonzalez last played regularly in 2003, when he had 24 home runs and 70 RBIs in 324 at-bats for the Texas Rangers.
The Cardinals signed Gonzalez to a minor league contract after he was recommended to the organization by Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, third base coach Jose Oquendo and former St. Louis player Eduardo Perez.
``He'd been advertised to me for three months; looked at by four people who endorsed him,'' new Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. ``I'm very excited.''
Gonzalez's name appeared in the Mitchell Report for a 2001 incident in which steroids were discovered in a bag linked to him. The report said a friend of Gonzalez claimed ownership of the bag.
Also, Jose Canseco wrote in his book that he introduced Gonzalez to performance-enhancing drugs when they were teammates.
Gonzalez denied on Tuesday that he has used performance-enhancing drugs.
``I'm clear,'' he said. ``I've never tested positive. I don't have a problem. I will continue with my head up and try the best inside the lines. I never used it.''
Gonzalez has 1,936 hits, 434 home runs, 1,404 RBIs and 388 doubles.
``You have goals in mind,'' he said. ``You're trying to come back to finish your goals. The money is not big for me. It's the goals.''

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