Baldelli's return plans take a hit

The outfielder will get an injury evaluation after a hamstring setback.

Published June 20, 2007

PHOENIX - The Devil Rays were hoping to have Rocco Baldelli back in the lineup by the end of this week.

Now they might be without him until next month. Or the month after that.

Baldelli will be back in St. Petersburg today for further evaluation after his latest frustrating setback on Monday night in Durham, N.C., sustaining what the Rays called "a tweak" in the strained left hamstring that has sidelined him since mid May.

"With this happening (Monday) night obviously it's early in the process, " executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "It's too early to tell. It could be two weeks, it could be six weeks. I don't know."

Baldelli was playing in the second of four scheduled rehab games with the Triple-A Bulls. He played centerfield and was taking his fifth at-bat of the night when he felt something leaving the batter's box.

"Roc is extremely disappointed, " Friedman said. "He worked very hard."

Friedman said the Rays might not know for a few days how severe the latest injury is and that it was "not necessarily" back to square one.

"When it's a tweak it's somewhat different than an original strain so it takes a couple days because immediately on straining and tweaking there's swelling, " he said. "So until that subsides it's tough to get a real accurate read on it."

Friedman said the Rays will continue efforts to explore "creative" methods to deal with Baldelli's persistent hamstring problems, consulting with medical experts and trainers from other teams that have dealt with similar problems, such as the Mets staff has done with shortstop Jose Reyes.

Baldelli, 25, missed more than two months last season because of hamstring problems that surfaced during spring training, and had similar issues this spring, though he was in the opening day lineup. He has not played a full season since his 2003 rookie season.

"We were excited to get him back into the lineup on Friday. With the way things were going offensively to add a player of Rocco's caliber was only going to help things, " Friedman said. "But the thing we're consumed by is trying to put this behind us any way we can."