For the first time since the Rays drafted him in 2000, Rocco Baldelli doesn't know whether he'll be in Tampa Bay's organization going forward.
Baldelli will file for free agency in the coming days, a first in his career, after the Rays declined their $6 million option on him for 2009 in April. All things being equal, there doesn't seem to be any question that the Rays would like Baldelli back, nor that he would prefer to stay. It's just that no one has a firm grasp on how the mitochondrial disorder that limited him to part-time duty once he returned to the field this season will affect him for the long haul.
"I don't know what to expect, I don't know what's going on right now," Baldelli said Thursday after cleaning out his locker at Tropicana Field. "This has been the only place I've ever played in, and I'm very comfortable here.
"Everyone's been very supportive of me, even through all this stuff that I've been dealing with, and I'm thankful for that more than anything, because I know a lot of people or a lot of teams would have probably turned their back on me when I was going through a lot of these troubles, because it is a business. They treated me like a person. I love playing here, and I'm just going to wait and see what happens the next couple weeks and months."
Executive Vice President Andrew Friedman admits to a close personal bond with Baldelli, but he knows the business aspect inevitably will come into play. One potential solution if the Rays aren't convinced of the outfielder's health might be to bring Baldelli back on a minor-league contract, giving him a chance to prove himself in spring training.
"I'm sure we'll talk in the next few days, and I'm sure I'll have a conversation with his agent," Friedman said. "I'm not sure yet how things will work out, but he has made this organization better, and I'm sure both sides will try to figure out a way to continue working together."
The principals in one of the pivotal plays in Game 5 stuck to their guns Thursday. Jason Bartlett and third-base coach Tom Foley said they had no regrets about Bartlett being thrown out at the plate by Phillies 2B Chase Utley for the final out of the seventh inning while trying to score from second on an infield single.
"I'd do it every time, and I'm sure Foley would send me every time," Bartlett said. "It just didn't work."
"We've been aggressive all year," Foley said. "This time, Utley made the play."
The end of the season won't provide Joe Maddon an immediate chance to sit back and relax; he's getting married a week from Saturday in Fullerton, Calif. His fiancee, Jaye Sousoures, has handled all the arrangements, and Maddon is looking forward to hopping around Europe on their honeymoon.
"I really plan on chilling out over there, doing it up right, traveling in a very simple manner," Maddon said. "The old backpack routine - some layers, some sweaters, Eurail pass. Nice hotels, though. We'll stay in nice hotels. A lot of wine, some good food, check out the old churches."
THIS & THAT
The cap Maddon wore during games in Philadelphia, a road jersey worn by Carl Crawford in the World Series and spikes worn by B.J. Upton during the Series will be exhibited at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., beginning later this month. ... OF Fernando Perez departs Nov. 13 for Venezuela, where he will play winter ball for Caracas. ... Crawford was selected as the best defensive left fielder in baseball in the 2008 Fielding Bible Awards. ... The conclusion of Game 5 drew a 32.4 rating in Tampa/St. Petersburg and a whopping 51.8 in Philadelphia.