It was a cool spring March day that Rocco Baldelli announced that he had “Mitochondrial Disorder,” a disease that keeps him in a constant stage of fatigue. He addressed reporters explaining as best he could what it means.
“Basically along the lines my body isn’t making or producing ATP the right way, and therefore not allowing my muscles to work as they should and recover like they’re supposed to on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
“I go out there and my body is literally spent after a short amount of time on the field, which makes it extremely frustrating and difficult, but it’s something that’s kind of a reality right now, and we’re dealing with the best we can,” Baldelli said. “As far as my baseball career, I’m not here to tell you I’m retiring. We’re still going to pursue any avenue that we can to try and figure out what is going on and have a better understanding of what is going on.”
It was sad. Here you had a guy who just could never stay healthy. He wasn’t just sitting out and collecting his paychecks without attempting to come back and play. He was just a guy with wretched fortunes when it came to staying healthy.
Baldelli fought his way back to the Major Leagues and returned in August to hit .263 in 28 games with four home runs and 13 RBIs for the Rays in 2008, playing a key role during the team’s postseason drive. He contributed to Tampa Bay’s World Series berth and AL Championship by hitting .333 with one home run and four RBIs in the ALCS against the Red Sox… it was the last time that Baldelli wore the Rays uniform as the Red Sox signed him for the 2009 season, that is until this spring, when Baldelli came home and joined the Rays as a special instructor.
Earlier today, the Rays made the announcement that Baldelli had been signed to a minor league contract and will begin his journey back to the majors beginning tonight as a member of the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
Here is the announcement from the team:
The Tampa Bay Rays have signed outfielder Rocco Baldelli to a minor league contract. He has been assigned to the Charlotte Stone Crabs (A) of the Florida State League.
Baldelli, 28, rejoined the Rays as a special instructor during spring training. He spent the 2009 season playing for the Boston Red Sox, where he hit .253 (38-for-150) with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 62 games. The right-handed hitter is a six-year major league veteran, including his first five seasons (2003-04, 2006-08) with the Rays. He owns a .279 (526-for-1,886) career batting average with 59 home runs, 257 RBI, 98 doubles and 59 stolen bases.
Baldelli was selected No. 6 overall by the Rays in the 2000 June Draft. He played in a career-high 156 games in 2003, finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year balloting. He missed the entire 2005 season and most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to injuries, but returned to the Rays on August 10, 2008 and remained on the active roster throughout the postseason.
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Althea Pashman’s other writings:
Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Storm