Baldelli deals with elbow surgery after knee rehab

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Devil Rays center fielder Rocco Baldelli will undergo right elbow ligament replacement surgery next
week and will miss the rest of the season.

Baldelli experienced soreness in his throwing elbow while taking
part in a rehab program for offseason left knee surgery. He
recently starting playing in extended spring training games and had
been scheduled to join Double-A Montgomery next Tuesday.

"What a shame. Everything was going well with his knee," Tampa
Bay manager Lou Piniella said before Wednesday's game against
Milwaukee. "He was swinging the bat well at extended spring

Baldelli was examined by Dr. James Andrews Wednesday in
Birmingham, Ala. Piniella talked with Baldelli before he left
Florida on Tuesday night.

"His mood was good ... surprising good," Piniella said.
"He'll be fine."

Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said Baldelli's recovery
time should be eight to nine months, which means the outfielder
could be ready for spring training next season.

Baldelli had 26 outfield assists, the third highest total in the
majors during the 2003-04 seasons. He has a .285 batting average
with 27 homers, 152 RBI and 44 steals in 292 career games.

In other news, LaMar said pitcher Dewon Brazelton might be
assigned to Double-A next week.

The Devil Rays' opening day starter resumed working out June 3
at the team's minor league complex after being reinstated from
major league baseball's restricted list one day earlier. He was
placed on the restricted list May 16 for failing to report to
Triple-A Durham, where he was optioned after allowing five runs on
four hits and six walks in a loss to the Chicago White Sox on May

"He's getting closer to going to a minor league club," LaMar
said. "We hope sometime next week that is the case."

Brazelton threw Wednesday at the Devil Rays extended spring
training camp.

Right-hander Jeff Niemann, taken in the first round of the 2004
draft, could be ready to resume pitching in the minors next week.
He has been sidelined since May 7 by right shoulder inflammation.

"He's doing fine," LaMar said. "We gave him an MRI just to
make sure, and his shoulder was 100 percent clean. I think you'll
see him back pitching in a game hopefully in the next week or