Rays' Baldelli: I don't have muscular dystrophy, despite report

Rocco Baldelli's cell phone started flashing as text message after text message landed in his in-box Friday, as news of a local television report that the Tampa Bay Rays
outfielder has muscular dystrophy ricocheted around the Internet -- a report that is simply false, he said Saturday afternoon in a telephone interview.

"I don't have muscular dystrophy," Baldelli said. "I have mitochondrial myopathy."

The confusion, Baldelli believes, stems from the fact that earlier this week he made a public service announcement on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

MD is a hereditary disease that causes progressive muscle weakness. Many people know of its potentially lethal effects, mostly on children, from information presented during Jerry Lewis' annual telethon.

Mitochondrial myopathy also affects muscles, but it's a different problem, causing fatigue and cramping, and, at times, a burning sensation.

Baldelli, who turned 27 this week, has been receiving medication for his disorder, and he returned to the big leagues in August. He's hit .260, with seven extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in 73 at-bats.

"I already feel a lot better now than I did in spring training," said Baldelli, referring to the time that he was diagnosed. "I can go out on the field, and I'm doing better, and I'm going to continue talking with doctors."

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.