Health problems forced Rocco Baldelli into early retirement in his twenties, but he’s stayed in baseball working for the Rays’ in a front office role and now he’s back on the field as Tampa Bay’s new first base coach.
Baldelli, who’s still just 33 years old, joins 37-year-old rookie manager Kevin Cash’s coaching staff along with longtime Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo as third base coach. Tom Foley shifts to bench coach.
Baldelli was the sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft and ranked as the No. 2 prospect on Baseball America’s list for 2003. He debuted that season at age 21 and had back-to-back productive years as a speedy, good-hitting center fielder, but then the injuries started to pile up and he logged a grand total of just 429 plate appearances from age 25 on.