Rays activate Aybar to DH in Game 2

Rays activate Aybar to DH in Game 2

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rocco Baldelli is out and Willy Aybar is in after Game 1 as Baldelli came up sore, prompting the Rays to take the necessary actions to deactivate Baldelli and activate Aybar on Thursday for the remainder of the American League Division Series.

According to the Rays, the official medical reason for the Baldelli move was left leg fatigue, which is symptomatic of his mitochondrial disorder.

"Well, the last day or so has been very disappointing for me, to say the least," Baldelli said. "It's not something that I anticipated. I have generally been feeling pretty good and been happy with the way things have gone on the field. Just to be sitting here and talking to you guys is definitely ... it's not something I really wanted to be doing."

The Rays had been optimistic about Baldelli being able to contribute during the series, particularly after Baldelli's play in Kansas City on Sunday, when he stole a base and scored the winning run from second base.

Baldelli explained the progression that took place Wednesday.

"What happened is when I was getting loose for the game yesterday, my left hamstring ... started to cramp up a little bit while I was just jogging back and forth," Baldelli said. "During the game in the batting cage, where I do most of my work when I'm DHing, it cramped up. And then in my last at-bat that I took, it cramped up in the box while I was swinging. At that point, I knew I was probably not in good shape."

After the game, Baldelli had discussions with Rays trainers and management, and they decided to see how he felt on Thursday.

"I showed up today early and went out in the cage, and I hit and I tried to do some running, and it was a situation where I wasn't going to be able to go out there and play," Baldelli said. "I felt like I had a responsibility to the team to make sure that whoever was out there was able to play."

Manager Joe Maddon got word to Aybar on Wednesday night that he would likely be activated, and that came to fruition after the Rays followed the necessary procedure.

Once Baldelli said he could not go, the Rays had to submit a form to Major League Baseball, which included having the Rays' team doctor talk to a doctor appointed by MLB. After going through that process, the move was approved.

Though the timing of the move might have seemed suspect to some, the Rangers did not take issue with the day's events.

"Both Tampa Bay and Major League Baseball had an independent medical review," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "The process is in place for a reason. You just have to trust that the proper steps were taken. They gave us a heads up last night that it would happen."

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman called Baldelli "as much a part of the Rays' family as any player that's ever worn the uniform.

"He's as selfless of an athlete as they come. His dedication to the game on and off the field has made a tremendous impact on all of us. And so this spring I sat down with him and we talked about kind of a two pronged setup, one where he was rehabbing and getting well and seeing how his body was progressing, and the second was to help us, and felt like he had a lot to give back even if he wasn't on the field."

Baldelli worked in a myriad of positions with the Rays this season, including working with Minor Leaguers in the organization prior to making a serious comeback bid.

"The players speak extremely well of him," Friedman said, "and to have someone like him who's done it so recently and to be able to talk to these guys from firsthand experience is extremely valuable. In the Draft process, he was also surprisingly insightful, had very good questions and thoughts and added a lot to our process. And then it progressed into July, obviously, where he started his rehab assignment. But everything he did before that was very meaningful."

According to the rules governing situations like Baldelli's, he will not be eligible to be active in the second round of the playoffs should the Rays advance to the American League Championship Series.

Despite the way Thursday's news looked, Baldelli was not ready to make any sort of declaration about his future.

"Yeah, not being able to play baseball has been one of the toughest things I've had to deal with for probably the last five years of my life," said Baldelli, who went through an assortment of injuries before being diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder. "It's what I love to do, and it's a difficult thing dealing with it. But knowing that I have some other things that I can do at the field that someone is getting something out of it, maybe if I'm there and even able to help any of the young guys then it's worth it to me.

"I mean, I enjoyed what I did this year. I had a great time. I guess I'm not playing at this point, but at this point, I try to keep my mindset as one of a player. No, what I did was great, and I had a lot of fun."

Aybar was in Thursday's lineup at the DH slot and hitting sixth. Another interesting move is Maddon's decision to start Desmond Jennings in right field hitting ninth.

"[Jennings'] baseball IQ is way up there," said Maddon.

Jennings also brings above-average speed to the lineup, which will give the Rays what amounts to a track team in the outfield with Carl Crawford in left and B.J. Upton in center.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.