« St. Pete Times on Baldelli
Baseball Today: Thursday, March 13 »
March 12, 2008
BY JOE McDONALD
Journal Sports Writer
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli has gone public.
The Rhode Island native decided it was time to reveal the serious health issue that has kept him sidelined for much of the last few seasons. The 26-year-old Rays center fielder said he has metabolic and/or mitochondrial abnormalities, which causes severe fatigue and muscle cramping.
After dismissing rumors about him having MS or a rare blood disorder, and denying that he was a steroids user, in an interview with the Journal last Saturday, Baldelli decided to discuss his health issues publicly in an attempt to stop all the speculation. He met with the Tampa-area media this morning and, in a phone interview this afternoon, said he was relieved he was able to finally talk about it.
''When I wake up tomorrow, I’m going to feel a lot better than I did today,'' he said. ''It’s been difficult for me not knowing what the problem is, and having to hear other people speculate. That was frustrating.''
What remains frustrating is that doctors still don't have a specific diagnosis . . . or a specific treatment plan.
''I still don’t have a specific diagnosis,'' he said. ''I wish I did, because I would feel better knowing exactly what it is,” he said.
''It’s causing me fatigue and muscle cramps to a point where I can’t function as a ballplayer, so I’ve decided to put my health No. 1 and step back.”
He will be placed on the disabled list indefinitely and he said he’ll stay on the DL until something changes, or he learns something new.
When asked if this was a life-threatening issue, Baldelli was cautious with his answer but believes that it is not.
“It’s difficult for me to comment on that,” he said. “I’m not worried about it being extremely serious and I don’t like to use the term [life-threatening]. Doctors are fairly certain this is not serious to that point. It’s a problem, a serious problem, but not something I’m worried about.”
He visited numerous doctors around the country during the offseason searching for answers. He wanted to know the stem of his medical problems because he knew something was wrong.
''My muscles weren’t functioning like they were supposed to,'' he said. ''I was pulling muscles and having cramps, and I wanted to figure out where this general feeling was coming from.''
Baldelli has no plans on retiring because he said he still loves the game and wants to play again. His contract expires at the end of the 2008 season, and indications are the Rays -- who must exercise a 2009 option by April 1 -- will not extend the contract.
''While on April 1 we may decline the option, when the time comes we'll do anything and everything to make sure he's part of this organization," said the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operation, Andrew Friedman.
''I’m not even worried about that,'' said Baldelli. ''I don’t know necessarily what I’m going to be doing as a player right now. I don’t know what my function is going to be whether I’m going to be working out (in Tampa) or back at home. The only thing I’m going to be worried about this season is trying to figure out what’s going on health-wise, and that’s all I’m worried about.
''It helps when my team, everyone from the manager (Joe Maddon) to the training staff to everyone on the club, is behind me and trying to help me health-wise. They have put everything else aside and said this is their No. 1 priority, which is very good for my sake.”
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