ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- For Rocco Baldelli, two at-bats in a spring training game was progress.
The Tampa Bay outfielder, sidelined most of last season because of a hamstring injury, went 0-for-2 Saturday in the Rays' 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays -- his first major league action since May 15."It was pretty standard. Two groundballs," said Baldelli, who started at designated hitter and probably won't play the outfield for a few games."It's been a while, I guess, since I played in somewhat of a real game. It feels good, the body feels pretty good. It's pretty much what I was looking for the first day. It was a positive day."Baldelli's health is one of the biggest question marks the Rays have this spring. He appeared in only 127 of 486 games the past three seasons because of an assortment of injuries.Las year, he played in 35 before hurting his hamstring running out a grounder against the Texas Rangers.Baldelli aggravated the injury after just two games of a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Durham in June. The Rays shut him down for the year in August when lingering soreness ruined his comeback bid after two games with Class-A Vero Beach.The Rays have asked the 26-year-old to pace himself during spring training, hoping to keep him healthy and fresh for the start of the season.Meanwhile, manager Joe Maddon has to determine the workload Baldelli can handle in right field, where Cliff Floyd and Jonny Gomes are also candidates for playing time.Floyd, who also has battled injuries during his 13-year career, played three innings in right on Saturday.He knows what Baldelli is going through, trying to figure out how to pace himself in workouts and games, while also preparing for the season."It takes a while. The one thing you don't want to do is excuse yourself from everything going on with the team," Floyd said, adding that Maddon has done a good job of giving players leeway to individually do what's necessary to get ready.Evan Longoria had a two-run triple, and Joel Guzman and Mike DiFelice also drove in runs during a four-run sixth inning for the Rays.John McDonald had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off right-hander James Shields, and Rod Barajas delivered an RBI single off lefty Trever Miller for Toronto.Baldelli grounded into a force play against Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan in the first and grounded out in fourth against right-hander Casey Janssen.Maddon said he is allowing Baldelli to figure out how to harness himself on the basepaths."It's his call. We're just encouraging him not to try to beat anything out and just try to stay in a steady gait throughout ... and not try to rush it," the manager said."But I'll tell you one thing. Even when Rocco is running easily, it's better than most. ... He even runs well when he's not running well."Baldelli said it's not easy to resist the temptation to run full speed."You can describe it any way you'd like," he said of his approach. "I'm going to do what I have to do to be ready to go on opening day."
After a perfect first, Shields allowed one run, one hit, a walk and hit a batter during a shaky second inning. ... McGowan, Janssen and John Parrish shut out the Rays on four hits through five innings. ... Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan (left elbow) is scheduled Sunday to face hitters for the second time this spring. He will pitch to a group of minor leaguers.