ST. PETERSBURG — Senior adviser Don Zimmer is recovering from a small stroke suffered last month and hopes to join the Rays in spring training for what would be his 61st season in the game.
Zimmer, who turns 78 today, said Friday he is regaining the speech and mobility he lost.
"I never felt bad," he said. "I never had anything bother me except that I'm a little wobbly and I'm slow taking a step. A week and a half ago, there's no way I could talk to you.
''But I'm getting better."
With family gathered at their Seminole condo for wife Soot's birthday on Dec. 23, several relatives noticed Zimmer was not his usual self. "They could see something was wrong," he said. "I wasn't talking right. I was very quiet, and that's not me. Everyone noticed it."
Zimmer said an MRI exam and other tests confirmed he "had a small stroke" but he has made considerable progress in the past two weeks. "I'm hoping to be in spring training," he said.
The longtime Pinellas County resident is one of baseball's most legendary figures, having played parts of 12 seasons (from 1954-65) in the majors, and close to 40 years as a manager (Padres, Red Sox, Rangers, Cubs and Yankees on an interim basis), coach or adviser.
Zimmer, who has six World Series championship rings, joined the Rays in January 2004, serving under managers Lou Piniella and Joe Maddon.