From Marc Topkin at the St. Pete Times:
Rocco Baldelli would have reason to spend hours, if not days, lamenting how his once promising baseball career was cut short by injury and a mysterious illness.
He won’t do that, because that’s not his nature. Plus, he’s too busy embracing the next phase of his life.
Baldelli, 29, is expected to officially announce his retirement as a player today, as well as his new assignment as a special adviser in the Rays’ front office, working in scouting and player development.
Baldelli’s career was once quite promising. He came up as a 21-year-old in 2003 and showed himself to be a pretty well-rounded player. A little pop, a little speed and a glove that looked like it could stick in center field. But then he faltered and later he was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder that never allowed him to get right. After a trip to Boston in 2009 and then a return to the Rays last year, he spent most of last season in a front office job before playing ten games at the end of the season. His last action came when he was inexplicably given the start against Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the ALDS back in October. He went 0 for 3 and was deactivated after the game.
It’s sad to see his playing days end, but it sounds as if he’s prepared for that and is ready to move on with his life in baseball, working in the Rays player development department.
Good luck, Rocco.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.
Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.
Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.
The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”