ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Rocco Baldelli could be ready for the next step in his attempt to play in the majors again.
The Tampa Bay Rays center fielder, sidelined since May 2007 because of lingering hamstring problems and what doctors have told him and the Rays is a mitochondrial disorder that causes extreme fatigue, is expected to meet with team officials in the next couple days about possibly joining one of Tampa Bay's minor league teams.
"This is probably the first time since the beginning of spring training where I actually felt that I was going to be coming back and playing," Baldelli said after going 0-for-5 as the designated hitter in his final extended spring training game on Wednesday. "We're going to sit down and decide what the next step is. Hopefully go out and get some [at-bats] on some kind of rehab assignment."
The 26-year-old Baldelli, placed on the 60-day disabled list during spring training, resumed playing as a DH for the Rays' extended spring team May 29.
When asked if he feels physically ready to DH in minor league games, Baldelli said "Yes."
"My body is responding pretty well, so I'm happy," he said.
Selected sixth overall in the 2000 amateur draft, Baldelli has a .282 batting average with 48 homers and 221 RBIs in 419 career games. His 26 assists during the 2003-04 seasons were the third most in the majors. However, he has been limited to just 127 games since the start of the 2005 season.