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Rocco Baldelli to announce retirement

01.26.11 at 2:47 am ET
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Rhode Island native Rocco Baldelli, whose major league career appeared headed for stardom before an unusual illness prevented the outfielder from being able to stay on the field consistently, told the St. Petersburg Times that he has decided to retire from baseball at the age of 29. Baldelli had spent the last few seasons with the Rays and Red Sox finding a way to play through channelopathy, a condition that left his body in a state of profound fatigue.

But after Game 1 of the 2010 AL Division Series between the Rays and Rangers, it became clear to Baldelli that he could no longer contribute as a result of the condition. Baldelli went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in that contest, and experienced significant cramping and pain afterwards. That led to his removal from the Rays’ postseason roster, and helped convince Baldelli that it was time to move to a new phase of his career, a decision that will be formalized with an announcement on Wednesday.

“That was the first time where I couldn’t keep playing and look at my teammates and still be out there,” Baldelli told the Times. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it any more.

“I don’t anticipate ever playing baseball again. I’m retired. The paperwork will be filed,” Baldelli added. “And you know what? The only time I feel like it’s good to retire is when you’re happy to retire. And I’m happy.”

Baldelli will take a job in the Rays front office as a special advisor in scouting and player development. After the Rays took him out of Bishop Hendricken High School with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft, he blitzed through the minors before making a tremendous big league debut in 2003, finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting while hitting .289 with a .326 OBP, .742 OPS, 11 homers and 27 steals as a 21-year-old. But injuries started limiting his ability to stay on the field the following year, and he played just 63 games for the Rays in 2007 and 2008 (though he did hit a pair of memorable homers in the 2008 postseason for Tampa Bay).

Baldelli signed with the Sox — the team he rooted for while growing up — for the 2009 season, hitting .253 with a .311 OBP, .433 slugging mark and .744 OPS along with 11 homers in part-time duty. He then returned to Tampa Bay, spending much of the year working in player development and the Rays front office before returning to uniform in September.

Baldelli concludes his career having hit .278 with a .323 OBP, .443 slugging mark and .766 OPS with 60 homers and 60 steals in 519 games.

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