BALDELLI ASSIGNED TO HIGH A FOR REHAB ASSIGNMENT:
OF Rocco Baldelli, having rehabbed for three months and played in a smattering of Extended Spring Training games, reached the next step in his comeback bid by being assigned to High A Vero Beach for a rehab assignment beginning Monday. Baldelli, the victim of a rare mitochondrial disorder that causes muscle fatigue, will be the Designated Hitter in Vero Beach's scheduled games on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Baldelli had reported no problems with muscle fatigue DH'ing in every other Extended Spring Training game, though Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman asserted that the move was more of a necessity than a great advancement in his recovery.
"It's just an ongoing part of the process. I wouldn't say that at this point there have been any great revelations, but the important thing is, right now he feels good, so we're going to be smart about this thing."
With Extended Spring Training over, the Rays needed to do something with Baldelli to keep him on the field, and that beget the rehab assignment to Vero Beach. The Rays will run into problems, however, with a provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that limits the amount of days a player may spend on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues to 20. Marc Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune speculates that the Rays may pull Baldelli off of the rehab assignment at some point to buy time and put him back on at a later date. It is unlikely that he will be ready to complete his rehabilitation after just 20 days.
"It's our sense that if, by chance, we need more time - which at this point we have no idea whether we will or won't - that there will be ways to figure it out within the rules," Friedman said.
Meanwhile, in other injury news, 1B Carlos Peña is recovering from a broken left index finger that he suffered a week and a half ago. Manager Joe Maddon said that Peña is close to returning, and the first baseman himself insists that he will be ready when eligible to come off the DL on the 19th. That doesn't square with an earlier prognostication by Maddon, so we'll see what comes of that.
More "News & Notes" follow the jump
The Tampa Tribune conducted their second annual survey of 20 Rays players concerning who should be the team's All-Star representative. Though more than one Ray is likely to go to the All-Star game for the second time in franchise history, the Tribune allowed those surveyed to select just one of their teammates to go to New York.
The results were very close, but if nothing else they produced a consensus on what two players survey respondents thought should be All-Stars. Nineteen of the twenty players surveyed chose either C Dioner Navarro or LHP Scott Kazmir as their All-Star nominee, with CF B.J. Upton getting the lone other vote (props to whoever cast that ballot). Navarro was picked by ten respondents, while Kazmir got the nod from nine.
Across the bay, Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times focused heavily on the return of Cubs Manager Lou Piniella to the Trop this week in his Sunday columns. Piniella also brings another former Rays manager, Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild, with him.
There is some non-Piniella stuff in there, however, including this tidbit from 'Rays Tales':
Does Scott Kazmir have a point with his strike-zone complaint about umpire Derryl Cousins in Wednesday's loss to the Angels? Cousins was behind the plate for two previous Kazmir starts: April 8, 2007, when he had 10 strikeouts, all swinging, in a loss; and June 6, '07, when he had four, all swinging, in a win. So in three games and 182/3 innings, Kazmir has faced 83 batters, struck out 24 and not gotten a called third strike. In 103 other games, Kazmir has had 112 called in 647 strikeouts, 17.3 percent. Cousins isn't scheduled to work another Rays series at least through Aug. 31.
There is also some interesting stuff in his always-great 'Rays Rumblings':
The Rays told MLB they plan no significant uniform changes for 2009, meaning TAMPA BAY will not return to the road jerseys. They are considering adding an "alternate" jersey that will also say RAYS.
This is disappointing. I've been told that the team may not make any changes to the core home and road jersey set until 2010, but this little news tidbit would appear to suggest otherwise. I understand why the organization left 'Tampa Bay' off of the road uniforms this season, since they wanted to emphasize the new name of the team. Even though I may disagree with that call, I can understand it. But I will be perturbed if indeed it turns out that the team doesn't rectify this inequity at the first opportunity they get. Locally, people identify very strongly with their sports teams because they are a measure of civic pride, and that the team would shun their regional name when representing the area on the road beyond the initial phase of their new identity is perplexing. It has caused the Orioles nothing but problems in their market, so much so that they have capitulated and will re-instate 'Baltimore' on the road jerseys next year. There is simply no good reason for the team to be a holdout on this. It only feeds into even more idiotic conspiracy theories, and it just isn't good politics.
On the bright side, I like the idea of an alternate jersey. Anything to prevent the abomination that was those batting practice jerseys being worn in a regular season game from happening again.
One very large problem with these Ken Griffey to Tampa Bay rumors: the $16.5-million 2009 option he'd likely want picked up to waive his no-trade clause, which the Rays would not do. And do they really need another LH-hitting OF/DH type?
Also a very large problem? He's 39 and not good at baseball.
Tentatively, and that's with a capital T, prized LHP David Price is slated to pitch for Vero Beach in Clearwater June 25, with a noon start.
Unless he gets moved up beforehand, get yourself out to Clearwater for this game. I, unfortunately, will be out of town, but I encourage all of you to go cheer on Price in an absolute jewel of a stadium. Be sure to get yourself a cheese steak, they are delicious.
Boston OF Coco Crisp, who says it's not "necessarily the truth" that he was the "main culprit" in the Fenway brawl, appeals his seven-game suspension June 23; if upheld he'd return for the July 1 game at the Trop.
So much for No. 1 draft pick Tim Beckham wanting to start playing right away; the Princeton (W. Va.) rookie team opens Tuesday and he's a long way from being signed.
That's unfortunate. Hopefully they come to terms relatively soon.
One last Sunday item from the Tribune, and while I am not usually much for sentimentality, I do encourage you to read this piece by Martin Fennelly. It's a nice story about Cliff Floyd and the relationship he shared with his Dad, who passed away last August. Well worth a bit of your time on this Father's Day.