Rays hoping to begin talks with DH Baldelli

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays hope to start talks soon on a new contract with right fielder-designated hitter Rocco Baldelli.

Baldelli, who hit a solo homer in Game 5 of the World Series, was one of this season's inspirational stories.

The 27-year old returned to play part time on Aug. 10 after missing 240 games due to mitochondrial disorder, which slows muscle recovery and causes extreme fatigue.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rocco on and off the field," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Thursday.

"We do have a special relationship. To be a part of what he's gone through, and see him at the lowest of moments, I think, has created that personal relationship. I'm sure we'll talk in the next few days."

In March, Baldelli thought his career might be over because of his physical problems. He went on two minor league rehab assignments before rejoining the team.

Rather than exercise an option for 2009, the Rays bought out the final three years of Baldelli's contract for $4 million at the end of spring training.

"I don't know what to expect," Baldelli said. "This is the only place that I've ever played in. I'm very comfortable here. Everyone's been very supportive through all this stuff that I've been dealing with. I'm thankful for it.

"[Some] teams would have probably turned their back on me when I was going through a lot of these troubles. It is a business. I love playing here, and I'm just going to wait and see what happens."