Rocco Baldelli stops coaching to begin comeback at Single-A

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Rocco Baldelli played reasonably well as a backup outfielder for the Red Sox last season, but after struggling with a shoulder injury in the second half he decided to spend the first half of this season as a “special assistant” for the Rays. That role involved mostly coaching minor leaguers, but now Baldelli is ready to join them on the field.
Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that he’s officially signed a minor-league contract with the Rays and will be in the lineup at high Single-A tonight as a designated hitter. In addition to Baldelli the Rays’ high Single-A team also includes former No. 1 overall picks Tim Beckham and Matt Bush.
Of course, assuming he looks to be in decent playing shape and avoids more health problems Baldelli may not stay at Single-A very long. Topkin speculates that he could be promoted to Double-A or Triple-A within 2-3 weeks as the Rays evaluate him as a possible part-time outfielder for the stretch run and playoffs. He’d need to be added to the roster by August 31 to be postseason eligible.
Despite seemingly being around forever and having his career stalled numerous times by health problems Baldelli is still just 28 years old and has hit .257/.323/.448 in 254 plate appearances over the past two years.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.