Baldelli's return comes at right time
Tampa Bay (76-48) vs. Los Angeles (76-47), Tuesday, 7:10 ET
ST. PETERSBURG -- For a team rocked by recent injuries to Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Troy Percival, it was ironic that Rocco Baldelli's talk with the media on Monday found the outfielder on the other side of the spectrum.
Sidelined since Spring Training with a rare mitochondrial disorder, the recently activated Baldelli admitted it was kind of weird to be discussing other guys on the disabled list.
But after a moment of musing, the 26-year-old changed his tune.
"Actually, if anyone can talk about injuries," he said, "I think I'm the guy to talk to."
Baldelli was placed on the 60-day disabled list on March 28, costing him the first 116 games of the season. He also missed the final 124 games of 2007 because of a hamstring injury. Even now, Baldelli's condition causes extreme fatigue and the outfielder can't be relied upon to play long stretches in the field.
Still, his long-awaited return has given a boost to a Rays squad missing the All-Star defensive prowess of Crawford and the power generated from Longoria's bat.
Baldelli was activated following Crawford's move to the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 10 and went 4-for-16 over the remainder of the 10-game road trip, garnering three starts.
"It's been a fun week for me," Baldelli said of his coming-out party. "It's been a long time. I've been waiting a long time for it. And I'm just pretty pleased."
Since his activation, Baldelli has appeared in five of the club's last seven games and manager Joe Maddon said he was impressed with the right-handed hitter's approach at the plate and ability to adjust to Major League pitching despite a 15-month layoff.
"Playing in the field [two out of the first three games] was a little tough for my body," Baldelli said. "It was something I hadn't done yet. It was difficult, not going to say it was easy, but I came out of it feeling good."
So did the Rays, who were witnesses to quite a few dazzling plays in right field, including a diving catch that Baldelli laid out to snag.
"I don't have to hold back on individual plays," he said. "I think it's the collective amount of time I'm out there on my feet that may eventually tire me out a little bit."
For now, the 26-year-old has been resting as much as possible and conserving his energy in an effort to do all his body will allow.
Although hardly ideal, it is a welcome change for Baldelli, particularly when discussing the Rays' current injury woes.
"It's not something we are going to sit around and dwell on on a day-to-day basis," he said. "We can't wait for those guys to come back. But also, we are going to go out there and we plan on winning all these games without them, too."Pitching matchup
TB: RHP James Shields (10-7, 3.75 ERA)
Shields received a no-decision Thursday afternoon at Oakland when he allowed four runs on five hits in five innings. Uncharacteristic of Shields' outing were the five walks. The 26-year-old right-hander's best pitch has always been his changeup, but he also has a plus fastball and curve and he's added a cutter that has helped him throw inside to left-handers. He is 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA in six career starts against the Angels. In 38 career starts at Tropicana Field, Shields is 17-7 with a 3.18 ERA. LAA: RHP Ervin Santana (13-5, 3.49 ERA)
He didn't get a win to show for it, but it was another strong effort by Santana, who gave up three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk on Wednesday night against the Mariners. He has yielded only eight walks while striking out 45 hitters in his past six outings, covering 40 1/3 innings. He seems to be getting stronger as the season heads toward the stretch. Santana is 3-3 in seven career outings against the Rays, with a 6.21 ERA. They reached him for nine hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings earlier this year in a no-decision at Tropicana Field. Tidbits
Right-hander Al Reyes rejected his outright assignment to Triple-A Durham and opted for free agency. The 38-year-old Reyes was designated on Aug. 9 when the Rays acquired reliever Chad Bradford. ... In his second start for Durham on Monday night, David Price picked up a no-decision at Indianapolis. The young lefty tossed five innings, allowing five hits, three runs (two earned) and four walks, while fanning three. In two starts at the Triple-A level, Price is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA. Tickets
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Wednesday: Rays (Matt Garza, 10-7, 3.63) vs. Angels (Jered Weaver, 10-9, 4.47), 7:10 p.m. ET
Friday: Rays (Edwin Jackson, 9-8, 3.97) at White Sox (John Danks, 10-5, 3.11), 8:11 p.m. ET
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.