Baldelli, team still face leg hurdles

By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Published March 8, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - Rocco Baldelli's health problems have to do with the muscles in his legs, but that's about as specific as he'd get Friday. He's not playing in Rays exhibitions right now to see if the legs feel better with more rest, but he said there has been no setback or new injury, and he remains confident that he will be ready when the regular season starts March31.

"The reason I'm taking these days off is to give my muscles a chance to recover," he said. "I'm thinking getting these extra days will do nothing but help me."

Baldelli reiterated that he doesn't know exactly what the problem is despite extensive tests and visits to multiple specialists. "I've seen more doctors than I have liked, and there's no specific diagnosis that's been found," he said.

Baldelli, whose 2007 season ended in May due to hamstring issues, was vague about his current symptoms, hinting that his legs felt tired but never really saying so. He has played in two games this spring, getting two at-bats each time as the DH (most recently Tuesday). He isn't ready to play today and Sunday is uncertain.

Baldelli, 26, said he is frustrated to be idled - "I don't like not being on the field" - but has "accepted it" as part of the process to keep him healthy for the whole season.

"As of now, I'm not concerned with missing some of these games," he said. "I think this is more us as a group tinkering with days off and how many and seeing what's effective."

Rays officials say that's fine for now, but they will want him to play more later in the spring.

Baldelli said he remains confident he will be in the lineup during the regular season, though it remains to be seen how often. And he seems likely to be limited initially to DH duty, saying only that he expects to be able to play the outfield "at some point."