Baldelli's OF return delayed

Published March 24, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - The way Rocco Baldelli figured it, he has waited 17 months to play a game in the field, another few days won't hurt.

The Devil Rays centerfielder said his left hamstring is sore. No big deal, he added, but enough of one that, as a precaution, he will not play tonight against the Reds at Progress Energy Park as planned.

"I'm trying to get ready for the season," Baldelli said. "If it takes a couple of extra days, I can handle it. I'm sure it will be fine."

It was not clear when Baldelli will play. Manager Joe Maddon said it could be Saturday or Sunday but almost definitely "by the beginning of next week."

Baldelli said the injury has nothing to do with the left knee that had reconstructive surgery in November of 2004. And he said his right elbow, which had Tommy John surgery in June, is fine, too.

But he said the hamstring has been "increasingly sore, so we're going to shut it down for a while."

Asked if he believed it was a significant setback, Maddon said, "I really don't. We just want to make sure his leg feels good."

Baldelli, 24, has had a productive spring, batting .333 (12-for-36) with a home run, six RBIs and four doubles in 11 games as a designated hitter. But he has said he won't feel his comeback is complete until he plays the field.

"I'll take as long as it needs," said Baldelli, who was scratched as DH for Thursday night's 8-3 loss to the Blue Jays. "If I had to play in a game, I could play. I'm just being cautious."

PITCHING GO-ROUND: Maddon said it appears "conventional wisdom" will prevail and the Rays will break camp with 12 pitchers instead of his preferred 11. That would leave one fewer spot on the bench for a position player.

Also, Maddon said left-hander Mark Hendrickson (bruised right femur) will throw 60 to 70 pitches in his next outing and 80 to 100 in the one after that: "By the time he's done with spring training he should be stretched out for six (innings)."

Maddon said if, as expected, Hendrickson is healthy and part of the rotation, the final spot is between right-handers Edwin Jackson and Doug Waechter.

"They both have responded spectacularly," Maddon said. "It's a great little situation we have."

LACK OF POWER: Of the dozen or so Bucs who showed up for batting practice, only defensive back Jermaine Phillips hit one out of the park.

Said kicker Matt Bryant: "I played in high school and college and there's been a lot of golf swings between then and now. This will humble anybody."

GAME DETAILS: Right-hander Chad Orvella pitched two innings and allowed three hits, including Russ Adams' three-run home run. It was the third homer Orvella allowed in 82/3 innings. ... Carl Crawford had two hits, including his second home run. ... Right-hander Dan Miceli's spring scoreless streak ended at four innings with Shane Hillenbrand's home run in the fourth. ... Nick Green went deep in the hole at shortstop to throw out Danny Solano in the seventh. ... Travis Lee and Greg Norton each had two hits with a double. ... Justin Singleton's home run in the ninth was the fourth allowed by Rays reliever Jesus Colome in eight innings. ... Right-hander Shawn Camp pitched two scoreless, hitless innings.