03/12/08 7:46 PM ET
Baldelli headed to DL with fatigue
Condition to sideline veteran Rays outfielder indefinitely
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
Baldelli addressed a room full of reporters shortly before Wednesday afternoon's game between the Rays and the Yankees at Progress Energy Park, and the 26-year-old outfielder said he had some type of "metabolic, and/or mitochondrial abnormalities."
"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.
Baldelli allowed that his condition is "difficult to explain."
"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."
Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters the Rays will stick by Baldelli to the best of their abilities to help him out in whatever way they can. He also said Baldelli's condition will likely lead to the Rays not picking up the outfielder's option for the 2009 season.
Under the terms of the long-term contract Baldelli signed after the 2005 season, the Rays have until April 1 to decide whether to pick up his $6 million option for the 2009 season. If the Rays decline, they must pay him $4 million and Baldelli would become a free agent at the end of the 2008 season. If they exercise the option, the Rays would then have to face the same question of whether to renew him for 2010 and '11 at a cost of $17 million or buy him out at $2 million.
"Obviously, we'll wait until that date, but right now, I would say it's unlikely we'll pick up that option on April 1," Friedman said. "I've communicated that to him. But our commitment is for Rocco to be in this organization as long as he's in professional baseball. And so, for us, it's more procedural. While on April 1, if we decline the option, when the time comes, we'll do anything and everything to insure that he's part of this organization."
Friedman said the Rays will soon begin addressing what they will do without Baldelli, who was being counted on to be part of a "right-field triangle" with Cliff Floyd and Jonny Gomes in which two of the three would play right field and DH on a daily basis.
"He's going to start the year on the DL, and how long he will be on the DL remains to be determined," Friedman said. "Obviously, it puts us in a position where we're going to have to identify someone to play right field and DH in a platoon situation."
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked about outfield scenarios, and he said they were in good shape with Carl Crawford in left field, B.J. Upton in center and Gomes in right. However, the backup center-field job is now an exposed area.
"That's a big part of it, because Rocco was being counted on to be that -- no question," Maddon said. "Things are changing now without Rocco out there, and we're looking as closely as we can at [John] Weber and [John] Rodriguez, of course.
"We've put [Ben] Zobrist out there, but, of course, he's hurt right now. So right now, it's kind of up in the air a bit. We have to totally fill that thing up in the next couple of weeks. But right now, it's just the guys who are here. And we're looking at them as close as we possibly can."
Maddon considers Weber a better fielder with a stronger arm than Rodriguez, but he considers Rodriguez a better offensive player.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.