Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rocco Baldelli Ready To Start New Life With Red Sox

Rocco talks about his health and and playing for his new team, the Red Sox, via ProJo Sports:

By now most everyone has heard about Rocco Baldelli’s health issues and his diagnosis with a mitochondrial disorder. But the 27-year-old Rhode Island native wants to start anew. He wants to be known as Rocco Baldelli, an outfielder for the Red Sox. Not, Rocco Baldelli, the guy who has a disease.

"I get asked about my health all the time," said Baldelli, who signed a one-year contract with Boston last month. "It’s tough, because what am I supposed to say? 'I feel good right now'? Probably the worst part about it is talking about it every day. "My mindset is to prepare myself for the season the best I can. Whatever I have to do to get ready for the season, I’ll do it." -- Rocco Baldelli "The one thing I try to do is stay positive. It helps how you feel physically if you stay positive mentally. It puts you in a good mindset every day when you wake up and come to the field."

It’s a part of his career, and life, that he would like to put behind him. He wants to focus on his future, whether that’s tomorrow, next week or next year. Baldelli’s been working out at the Red Sox’ player development complex here, getting familiar in his new surroundings and meeting his new teammates, manager and coaches. "It’s going to be a little different, obviously," he said. "I was in [Tampa Bay] for nine seasons, so it’s going to be a little different. But there’s no place I would rather be than here. I think this is going to be a good year and a good situation for me to be in."

The first official day for position players to report is Feb.18, but most players, if not all of them, will be here prior to next Wednesday. Baldelli has been hitting with Kevin Youkilis the last couple of days and he’s looking forward to meeting the rest of his new teammates. "It’s like going into the first day of a new school," he said. "I’ve known some of the guys by competing against them, and I know some of them off the field a little bit, but for the most part I’m getting to know everyone for the first time. I’m fine with it. It’s cool."

After Baldelli made a dramatic return last summer with the Rays, and helped them reach the World Series, he became a free agent. There were six clubs interested in his services, including the Red Sox, who quickly met with him at Fenway Park soon after the Rays lost to the Phillies in the Series.

Boston cooled a bit in its pursuit until Baldelli was given some positive news from his doctors and his health was given a re-diagnosis in December. The Red Sox, who were looking for a right-handed bat off the bench/backup outfielder, brought him back to Boston and put him through a battery of tests, all of which he passed.

Both club and player say they couldn’t be happier with the situation. Red Sox manager Terry Francona met his new player when Baldelli signed last month, and thinks he knows Baldelli’s role will evolve. The Sox, he said, will "back him off enough" in spring training in order to keep him ready to play when needed for the entire season.

"We got him at a time when he’s not a 22-year-old kid who thinks he has to be the first one in the rundowns, and [thus tires himself out so that] when the games start he can’t do what he can do," said Francona. "We’re going to be very supportive of him and hopefully make it easier for him to help us win games." Francona called it a partnership and the club has done its homework to understand Baldelli’s situation. "Just like a new player coming into camp, we’re going to have to help him fight the urge to want to do everything," said Francona.

During past offseasons, Baldelli spent most of his time in St. Petersburg, Fla. But this winter he worked out in Rhode Island to prepare for his first season with a team other than the Rays. "My mindset is to prepare myself for the season the best I can," explained Baldelli. "I’m going to sit down with the staff here and discuss exactly what I’ll be doing out on the field. Whatever I have to do to get ready for the season, I’ll do it."

The Red Sox have been very open with Baldelli and receptive to any ideas he has in regards to his health and availability. "I couldn’t ask for anything more from these guys," he said. "They just want to do anything they can to help me out, which is a good feeling as a player."

Now that Baldelli is playing for his hometown team, the one he grew up watching and rooting for, his life around Rhode Island has changed a little bit. "I really don’t know how to explain it," he said. "A lot more people want to talk baseball with me now than they did before." And when they ask about his health? "Right about now," he said, "I feel about as good as I could ask."

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