Thursday, June 21, 2007

What to do about Rocco

The Devil Rays thought they were going to have Rocco Baldelli back in the lineup this evening, but after suffering yet another set-back, it looks like he will be out 4-8 weeks. Rocco, who has not played since may 15th due to a pulled hamstring, was rehabbing this week in Durham when he tweaked his hamstring running out of the batters box on Tuesday. Things looked to be fine on Monday when Rocco played DH in his first game on his DL stint and went 3-5 including a home run in Durham. The Rays decided to let him play CF on Tuesday and he tweaked himself running out of the box late in the game.

This set-back is another in a long line of injuries or injury set-backs for Rocco, who has only played in only 263 games since his rookie year in 2003, is immensely talented, but i think it is safe to say he is injury prone. Since the end of 2004 Rocco has had a knee surgery, a tommy john surgery, a quad problem, and now hamstring problems. It just seems that Rocco cannot stay healthy and if its not one thing it is another.

Rocco when healthy is a threat to go 30/30 each year and is one of the best defensive center fielders in the league. Rocco is a 5 tool player and has shown flashes of being that great outfielder the Rays though he would be when they drafted him, but it becomes moot when he can't stay on the field. The Rays need to figure out why his hamstring keeps flaring up on him and how they get can get it treated. Maybe the Rays should contact the Reds training staff as Ken Griffey Jr seems to be over his hamstring problems that sidelined him for so long.

The Rays at one time had a glut of outfield talent and it seemed that would could not find a way to get them all on the field, but between Elijah Dukes problems, Josh Hamilton being picked up in the rule 5 draft, and Rocco's injuries the Rays are looking real thin in the outfield. The Rays are so thin that on Wednesday, when Carl Crawford was given the day off, the outfield consisted on Johnny Gomes, Delmon Young, and Greg Norton. The Rays talented outfield has now become one injury away from quite possibly the worst outfield in the league. The Rays have put BJ Upton into center field a couple times this and many believe that will be his position in the future, but he is out right now due to injury.
As great as BJ might be in the outfield, Rocco is a better defensive fielder out there and i would prefer to have Rocco out in the field, but it seems that may not happen. The Rays really need to evaluate what to do with Rocco and how to move forward with him. The Rays could keep him at DH and hope that takes pressure off of his hamstrings, but then you lose his great defense and the last two tweaks have come from running out of the batters box. The Rays may just have to hope to get him to play enough and trade him away for something decent. The Rays had offers for Rocco this year, but did not feel it was good value. I love Rocco out in the outfield, but of we can't get him to stay on the field maybe it would be better to get something for him. The best time for the Rays to trade him would be now while his contract has not started to escalate, but no one will give you close to value while he is hurt. Also, what happens if Rocco goes on to stay healthy and becomes what we all know he is capable of?
I think the Rays need to find a different doctor or expert to help Rocco out. The hamstring problem has got to be fixable and their has to be something that can help and I think the Rays need to figure out what that is. Rocco is a force in the field and if healthy will be a top outfielder in the league. The Rays need to decide what they can do to get this guy back on the field and keep him healthy. Once he is on the field and healthy than they may have to make another decision on if they believe he will stay healthy. As tough as the decision will be, I am hoping we actually get to it.

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