Baldelli to wait bit longer to test injury

The centerfielder has not played since experiencing tightness in the muscle during a plate appearance Tuesday.

Published March 23, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Centerfielder Rocco Baldelli will wait until at least Sunday to test his tender right hamstring in a game, one day later than manager Joe Maddon originally indicated.

"I was thinking Saturday and I'm pushing it back to Sunday and if not maybe Monday of next week," Maddon said. "Being that it's spring training, we want to be overly cautious right now.

"I don't want to miss him this year. We all saw what he can do. He's such a high-end player. I just want to make sure we can get through this and move on and, hopefully, have no setbacks. Watching how he moves around, I think he's going to be fine."

Baldelli, 25, has not played since experiencing tightness in the muscle during a plate appearance Tuesday. He missed more than two months of the 2006 season with a lingering injury to his left hamstring that at first did not seem serious.

Baldelli worked out with the team trainer Thursday and said he felt the same as Wednesday.

"I'd say I'm just going to be able to come in and do what the trainers have for me and assess it day to day. I'm not trying to give anyone the wrong impression. But it's not really too bad. I think I'll be fine pretty soon."

CATCHING UP: C Dioner Navarro returned to the lineup for the first time since a hamstring injury March 8. He played the first three innings of the 6-5, 10-inning win against the Twins, popping up in his only at-bat.

"I was a little bit lost back there, but other than that, 100 percent," Navarro said. "It's been 12 or 13 days without doing anything. But I blocked a couple pitches, threw well between innings, and my hamstring, which was my main concern, was pain-free. That's a good thing. Now, I can get back on pace."

Navarro played in a minor-league game Wednesday with four at-bats as a designated hitter. He will take today off and play Saturday against the Red Sox.

"We're stretching him out like a pitcher, almost," Maddon said.

ON TARGET: LHP Casey Fossum went four innings in his third and longest start of the spring, allowing his first run on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts.

Recovering from September should surgery, Fossum walked the first two batters but settled down after a between-innings suggestion from pitching coach Jim Hickey.

"My arm slot was wrong," Fossum said. "I did what he told me and was ahead of every hitter after that."

Likely to start the home opener April 6, Fossum will look to increase his stamina in two more spring outings.

"My arm feels so good right now," he said. "It's kind of like getting a new engine in your car and you have to test it out. I've got a newly strong, nice shoulder, and I'm still kind of testing it."

ROSTER MOVES: The Rays reduced their roster to 38 by reassigning two players to minor-league camp: C Yamid Haad and IF Hee-Seop Choi. The roster must be trimmed to 25 by the April 2 opener.

Choi, a former major-leaguer, signed a minor-league contract hoping to make it back with the Rays, but his chances were diminished when the team signed Carlos Pena.

"He's a good teammate, and I really enjoyed having him here," Maddon said of Choi. "I just couldn't get him enough at-bats. I told him if he wants to blame anybody, blame me."

MISCELLANY: Elijah Dukes got the winning RBI on a walkoff single through the left side with the bases loaded in the 10th. Pena, who doubled deep down the rightfield line, scored the winner. ... Twins leadoff hitter Jason Tyner tried to stretch a hit down the rightfield line into a triple in the third inning, but the Rays relay of RF Delmon Young to SS Brendan Harris to 3B Ty Wigginton stopped him. ... Twins starting pitcher Boof Bonser played at Gibbs High. ... Saturday's game against Boston is sold out.

Joanne Korth can be reached at korth@sptimes.com or 727 893-8810.

Fast Facts:


Kazmir change

Scott Kazmir, scheduled to pitch tonight against the Reds, instead will pitch for Triple-A Durham at 1 p.m. against Scranton at the Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg. RHP J.P. Howell, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, will face the Reds so coaches can get a better look. Howell, 23, is expected to pitch at least five innings.