Baldelli: "Right decision" to join Red Sox

8

January

UPDATE, 5:20: Rays manager Joe Maddon said he was sorry to see Baldelli go but wished him well.
”It’s a tough moment. We had to do what we think is right right now, and hopefully it will work out for both sides,’’ Maddon said. “He’ll come back and if he’s well, he’ll be a star. I would love to have had it work out with us, no doubt. I think a lot of him as a player and as a person, but it’s not to be right now. I wish him well. I enjoyed my time with him, and, who knows, it might happen again.’’

Rocco UPDATE, 4:20: On the way to his introductory press conference in Boston, Rocco Baldelli said he was excited to be going home and joining the Red Sox and also sad to be leaving the Rays and the Tampa Bay area behind.

“I’m definitely excited. I think this is a great move for my baseball career,’’ he said by phone from Boston. “Boston pursued me pretty aggressively and I appreciated that. In addition to the baseball side of it, they were equally interested in helping me out anyway they could medically. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that this was the best place for me to sign.’’

The Red Sox were one of several teams in serious pursuit, with the Pirates and Reds among the others. The Rays had some interest in bringing Baldelli back, but after signing free agent DH Pat Burrell were limited in what they could do financially, a decision further complicated by uncertainties of how much he could play.

Baldelli -- who declined to disclose any specifics of his discussions -- said he would look back fondly on his time with the Rays.

“It was definitely emotional to leave, but it was the right decision at this time,’’ he said. “It’s sad, because I love the area and the people. Everyone was very, very good to me. It was a great nine years. ... So many people did so much for me, there’s no way I could thank everybody. I wish I could. ... I guess you could say I have a smile on my face every time I think about it.''

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Free-agent OF Rocco Baldelli officially joined the Red Sox on Thursday, with the team announcing he had agreed to a one-year contract.

Baldelli had been with the Rays his entire career, but became a free agent at the end of the season as the Rays declined his 2009 option, in part because of uncertainty over his ability to play regularly due to a rare fatigue disorder, which had been considered mitochondrial. A recently revised diagnosis of a more treatable condition, a channelopathy, has Baldelli, 27, optimistic he can play more often.

Terms were not released, but according to the Boston Globe, Baldelli is guaranteed only $500,000, but can earn another $1.75-million in bonuses just by remaining on the active roster, which would mean he makes $2.25-million for the full season. His contract also has significant bonuses based on plate appearances that could push the value of the deal as high as $7.5-million, though that is unlikely since it would require him playing everyday. More likely, the Sox will use him as a reserve outfielder and occasional DH.

(Times photo -- Brian Cassella.)

More:

View a photo gallery of Rocco Baldelli through the years

Read John Romano's column about Rocco Baldelli's game-winning hit against the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS.

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:44am]

    

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