Big League Stew - MLB

Duk's Dozen, a selection of 12 morning-fresh links and items, has returned in 2011 to start your baseball news day off right. Got links? Send 'em here or via Twitter.  

1. Rocco Baldelli(notes) held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to confirm what we sadly already knew: He's retiring at age 29 and will be taking a job in the Tampa Bay Rays' front office.

Baldelli's playing career will always be a "what might have been" story as medical issues limited him to a total of only 135 games over the past four seasons. But he always dealt with his roadblocks in a positive and standup way and he was always quick to lend support to those who were also suffering from mitochondrial disease or channelopathy. For that, he deserves a big BLS head nod and our best wishes in his new position. Rock on, Rocco. The Heater

2. Prepping for a career change? New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman did a three-hour stint as a celebrity bartender in NYC on Wednesday night. No word if anyone took Marc Carig up on his challenge and ordered "a pitcher" from Cashman. MLB (video)

3. Keith Law has released his organizational rankings and his top-three teams are the Royals, Rays and Braves. (I'd list more, but I can't remember my Insider password.) ESPN 

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4. We luckily don't need a password to read Rob Neyer's great piece exploring whether his love for the Kansas City Royals is "gone, or merely dormant." SweetSpot 

5. Well, here's an interesting notion: The very thing (age) that seems destined to push Derek Jeter(notes) away from shortstop is actually the very thing that will keep him there. NY Times

6. Andy Dolan has dibs on these new Cubs-themed license plates. @desipiodotcom 

7. "Jonathan Papelbon is coming back next year and it very well likely may be the last year for him as a Red Sox. I really hope it's not a season marred in finger-pointing and second-guessing from Red Sox fans as he wraps up a great Red Sox run, but I can almost guarantee it will be." Fire Brand of the AL 

8. Holy smokes: Has anyone else noticed that the San Diego Padres uniforms are almost indistinguishable from the Milwaukee Brewers now that the Friars have ditched their khaki-colored road threads for the traditional gray? The Sacrifice Bunt 

9. Now that the Padres have honored three different branches with three different style of camouflage, should a nod to the Coast Guard — which has a presence in San Diego — be on the horizon. A loyal Stewie named Jesse Karr thinks so. He's a senior pitcher and captain on the baseball team at the Coast Guard Academy and he sent over a picture of a starting point the Padres could us, if they're interested. Whaddya say, Pads?  BLS

10. Could Michael Young(notes) share a flight to Canada with Frank Francisco(notes)? Toronto Star 

11. Jamey Newberg digs into the blood-n-guts of the Mike Napoli(notes) acquisition. Newberg Report

12. It's a good thing Todd Wellemeyer(notes) is back with the Chicago Cubs because he apparently didn't gain an appreciation for quality pizza on his first go-round. JoeSportsFan 

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