OF Rocco Baldelli had to wait 15 months for his remarkable return to the big leagues.
So the fact that by today's game against the White Sox he will have gone six days since his last at-bat is a breeze by comparison.
Baldelli has faced many unknowns during his comeback from a rare muscle fatigue disorder, but he knows he will start today and Sunday against LHPs John Danks and Mark Buehrle. And after playing four games in five days during the last trip, he has a pretty good idea of how his body will respond.
"Playing two games in three days, playing in the field, was a little tough on my body — it was something I hadn't done yet," Baldelli said. "It was difficult; I'm not going to say it was easy, but I came out of it feeling good, and I'm happy with how I feel."
Baldelli said that between starts he doesn't participate in much "practice action," as he "literally saves as much energy that I have for games."
Manager Joe Maddon said Baldelli, who went 4-for-16 (.250) in his last five-game stint while making a couple of diving catches, will mostly get his starts against left-handers. Baldelli is also available to pinch hit, and though Maddon said he would consider using him against right-handers, too, but it's been tough to find him at-bats recently with how well DH Cliff Floyd and OFs Gabe Gross and Eric Hinske have performed.
"If something were to happen to somebody," Maddon said. "We may ask Rocco to take maybe a little larger role."
Baldelli, 26, is extremely happy to be playing at all. He said there were times during his recovery when he "would have bet" that he'd never return to baseball. While he admits the medications he is using "are never going to solve my problems, it's getting me just good enough to where I can get out there and play."
Baldelli has acknowledged a groundswell of support has helped, too.
"My phone hasn't stopped ringing from my friends and people that I didn't even know had my phone number," he said. "Just wish me the best of luck and people just saying how happy they are for me to be back. It makes me feel good. It keeps me going."
LONGORIA UPDATE: 3B Evan Longoria said he will have another X-ray today, which could give him a better idea of how much his fractured right wrist has healed and what the next step will be in his rehab. When the All-Star rookie was put on the disabled list Aug. 11, the Rays estimated he could return on or around Sept. 1. "I could probably play with it, but the risk was that tip of bone that's fractured could break off, and if does break off then that's a lot more serious and I'll have to have surgery and miss the rest of the year," he said. "So I'll be pretty cautious about when I come back and make sure that it's almost back to full health."
NO REGRETS: RHP Gary Glover, who rejected an outright assignment this month and is now in the Tigers bullpen, appears to have no regrets over his decision to leave despite Tampa Bay's potential postseason run. Glover has pitched 21/3 innings of scoreless relief with Detroit. "I thought it would take an injury for me to be back on that squad, and that wasn't something I wanted to root for or have happen," Glover told the Detroit Free Press. "So in that respect, it wasn't very tempting."
MISCELLANY: Asked Wednesday about the AL rookie of the year award, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "Longoria probably will get it, especially if they win." … The fact that 3B Willy Aybar and his younger brother, Angels SS Erick, are in pennant races hasn't been lost on their mother, Francia, who calls them often. "She says she wants us both to make the playoffs," Erick said. "I told her, 'We're trying.' "
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.