FORT MYERS, FLA. - By now many baseball fans have heard about Rocco Baldelli's health issues and his diagnosis with a mitochondrial disorder.
But the 27-year-old Rhode Island native wants to start anew. He wants to be known as Rocco Baldelli, an outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Not, Rocco Baldelli, the guy who has a disease.
"I get asked about my health all the time," said Baldelli, who signed a one-year contract with Boston last month. "It's tough, because what am I supposed to say? 'I feel good right now'? Probably the worst part about it is talking about it every day.
"The one thing I try to do is stay positive. It helps how you feel physically if you stay positive mentally. It puts you in a good mindset every day when you wake up and come to the field."
It's a part of his career, and life, that he would like to put behind him. He wants to focus on his future, whether that's tomorrow, next week or next year.
Baldelli's been working out at the Red Sox' player development complex here, getting familiar in his new surroundings and meeting his new teammates, manager and coaches.
"It's going to be a little different, obviously," he said. "I was in [Tampa Bay] for nine seasons, so it's going to be a little different. But there's no place I would rather be than here. I think this is going to be a good year and a good situation for me to be in."
The first official day for position players to report is next Wednesday, but most players, if not all of them, will be here prior to that. Baldelli has been hitting with Kevin Youkilis the past couple of days and he's looking forward to meeting the rest of his new teammates.
"It's like going into the first day of a new school," he said. "I've known some of the guys by competing against them, and I know some of them off the field a little bit, but for the most part I'm getting to know everyone for the first time. I'm fine with it. It's cool."
After Baldelli made a dramatic return last summer with the Rays, and helped them reach the World Series, he became a free agent. There were six clubs interested in his services, including the Red Sox, who quickly met with him at Fenway Park soon after the Rays lost to the Phillies in the Series.
Boston cooled a bit in its pursuit until Baldelli was given some positive news from his doctors and his health was given a re-diagnosis in December. The Red Sox, who were looking for a righthanded bat off the bench/backup outfielder, brought him back to Boston and put him through a battery of tests, all of which he passed.