PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Seeing a bunch of familiar faces made Rocco Baldelli feel right at home.
Signed by Boston in the offseason, Baldelli went 1-for-2 with an RBI single in his spring training debut Friday. The best part for him was getting a chance to mingle with former teammates from the Tampa Bay Rays."I got more hugs today than I got in a long time," Baldelli said before a 12-4 loss to the defending AL champions. "It was really nice."Baldelli, who played in the World Series after missing most of last season because of an illness that causes extreme fatigue, signed a $500,000, one-year contract with the Red Sox after spending nearly a decade in the Rays organization.His new team is still trying to figure out how best to use the 27-year-old outfielder. He is a .281 career hitter who has been hampered by injuries and illness since missing the entire 2005 season with knee and elbow trouble.Baldelli was diagnosed with mitochondrial disorder during spring training a year ago. This winter, his condition was re-diagnosed as channelopathy, a less severe and more treatable muscular disorder.Boston manager Terry Francona used Baldelli as the designated hitter on Friday, and the Red Sox are encouraging him to not over extend himself while the club gets a better feel for him."We're trying real hard to get a read on him. The idea is to get the most out of him on the field and not wear him out before he gets to the field. We've tried to a lot to make sure he understands that," Francona said."The more we understand about his condition and the more we get to know him, hopefully the better decisions we'll make."Baldelli, limited to 155 games over the past four seasons, had mixed emotions about leaving the Rays after nine years. Still, he's excited about the opportunity to play near family and friends from his hometown of Woonsocket, R.I.He's accustomed to having to pace himself in spring training, so what the Red Sox are asking him to do is not new."I think I have a pretty good idea of what I'm going to do out on the field. As far as pushing myself every day to do more I don't think that's my goal right now," Baldelli said. "I think my goal is to be able to do what I'm asked to do. When Tito comes to me and says you're out there, I just want to be ready to go. If I can do that, I'll be happy."Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer off Boston starter Michael Bowden, who allowed four runs and five hits in 1 2-3 innings. Jason Bartlett was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, and Chris Richard had a two-run homer off Charlie Zink for the Rays.Right-hander Jeff Niemann, one of four candidates for the fifth spot in Tampa Bay's rotation, pitched two scoreless innings.Baldelli flied to left field in the first inning, drew a walk in the fourth and delivered his RBI single during Boston's four-run fifth against Derek Rodriguez."I wish him total health and a great career. He could be a very, very special player," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's one of the more talented guys in the league when he's able to perform on a daily basis. No question about that."
Red Sox 1B/OF Jeff Bailey didn't make the trip after fouling a ball off one his toes the day before against Pittsburgh. ... Maddon said Rays closer Troy Percival probably won't make his first spring training appearance until the middle of March.