The outlook for Rocco Baldelli, as a person and as a free agent, improved a lot recently.
Baldelli told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that doctors at the Cleveland Clinic have diagnosed him with channelopathy (a kind of neuromuscular disease), which is much more treatable and much less severe than the career- and life-threatening mitochondrial disorder other docs had diagnosed earlier this year.
A seemingly nice, classy and patient guy, Baldelli said he was not "misdiagnosed" as some reported — including this post at ABC6.com. Rather, docs in Cleveland simply had testing equipment more sophisticated than any Baldelli had experienced.
"It's definitely an encouraging development," Baldelli said. "Knowing this is a treatable condition, I feel this is a very positive thing for me and my baseball career. With this less-severe diagnosis, I hope to be on the field on a much more regular basis.''
Baldelli finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2003 — behind Angel Berroa and Hideki Matsui and ahead of Mark Teixeira — but has since ridden a roller coaster of injury and illness. Limited to 35 games in 2007, Baldelli played 28 games in '08, with his rest strictly regulated because he became easily tired.
The news comes at a good time for his agent because now, with his health prospects improved, Baldelli probably will draw more interest on the free-agent market. There are plenty of teams hoping he can be at least the semblance of a guy who hit .281/.325/.445 with speed and above-average range in center field over his first five seasons.
Below is a list of possible suitors for Baldelli, who turned 27 in September:
Red Sox: They've long been linked to having an interest in Rocco, who grew up and still lives in Rhode Island. The Fenway Franks could use a right-handed guy to pair with Ellsbury in center, but he also could play a corner.
Rays: The uncertainty of his health and perhaps being resigned to move on led St. Petersburg to decline Baldelli's option earlier in the fall. Yet they could still be in the game to keep him — perhaps more than ever now.
Reds: The Providence Journal reported from the winter meetings that Dusty Baker and a Reds contingent were playing roulette when someone shouted, "Put it on No. 5 for Rocco Baldelli!" Well, apparently, the club is talking to Baldelli's agent.
Phillies: They just gave Raul Ibanez $31.5 million, Victorino is a switch-hitter in center, and Jayson Werth appears to be coming into his own in right. But what a great fourth outfielder/insurance policy Baldelli would make.
Yankees: OK, so a certain prediction from a certain someone about how poorly the Bronx will do in free agency appears to have been sorely mistaken. Apparently, they can get folks to sign in New York. So, why not Baldelli, who is theoretically a big upgrade on Melky Cabrera, and is much younger than Mike Cameron?
White Sox: They've been linked to Baldelli in the past, and their current center fielders at the moment are Brian Anderson (.221/.277/.379), Jerry Owens (.268/.321/.312) and Dewayne Wise (.214/.254/.385).