Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, and newly-acquired outfielder Rocco Baldelli addressed the media before tonight’s Boston Baseball Writers’ 70th Awards Dinner at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston. A transcript of the press conference follows:
Thanks a lot for coming everybody. We’re here today to announce the signing of Rocco Baldelli to a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox. This is a very exciting day for the organization. We’ve admired Rocco from afar for a long time now as a player and as a person and we think he is a great fit for this organization going forward. Couldn’t be happier to announce the signing here today.
Baldelli on wearing Nomar Garciaparra’s and George Scott’s No. 5:
It was brought to my attention that obviously this has always been a special number in this town and I recognize that as much as anybody. It was brought to my attention that there was a possibility that I was going to be able to wear it. It being the number that I have worn my whole career. I accept it and I think it’s great and I am very happy about it.
Baldelli on childhood dream to play for Sox:
I’ve always said as much as anyone what it means to be a Red Sox fan and somewhat around the game. My family and friends are as crazy as any other red sox fan out there. I know the loyalty that these people here have for this team and it’s really an honor for me to be a part of it.
Baldelli on Free Agency and having only known one team:
I think there were a lot of reasons that this was a very good fit for me. Theo and the Sox they pursued me not only as a player but also to understand me as a person and to help me out any way they could on the field and off the field. First of all that’s one thing that appealed to me. Also, obviously my family and all my friends are just as pleased as I am to hear the news. There wasn’t one reason that this ended up being the spot where I was, I think there were a lot of reasons.
Baldelli on how he feels physically:
At this point I really couldn’t be happier with the way that I feel. I started working out this off-season earlier than any other off-season that I have. This is pretty much all I could ask for. I have been continuing to see and consult anyone that I need to and I think it’s going to be an on-going process for me and I am going to have to embrace and understand that there will always going to be something different that maybe able to help me and I am willing to do whatever I need to.
Baldelli on his durability:
Once I get to spring training and I start to get on my feet again, I am going to have a lot better idea of how I am feeling. I feel very good right now and the Sox have been helping me – consulting people to further help me feel any better than I already am. I anticipate being able to do more than I was doing last year and that’s pretty much it.
Baldelli on advantages of being home:
It’s tough to put my finger on that. Like I touched on earlier there’s a lot of reasons that this was the right team for me to go to. I think the most important reason is my family is that they get to come see me play all the time which is very important to me too and what makes them happy make me happy. I think that a big reason too.
Epstein on Baldelli on his role and fit for club:
I think Tito can ultimately address the role but there was a definite fit on this club for Rocco. It seems like almost every off-season we are looking for young really talented right handed hitting outfielder to compliment the core of outfielders that we have. Rocco obviously is talented enough to start for any club but due to circumstances the last couple of years and the evolution of his career it seemed like the right time and the right fit where he could help us out as an extra outfielder but be a pretty dynamic one. Obviously right handed hitter fits with having a left handed hitting center fielder and right fielder. Rocco is an outstanding defender and base runner so we feel he can impact our team on a number of different fronts. Probably the most appealing factor for us was right from the beginning the first meeting with Rocco and how open they were about the things that Rocco has been through and didn’t hide the ball on anything. Sort of looking for a partner in this process and as Rocco said it’s an on-going process. We feel like as a person and as a player he is someone that we want to invest our time and energy in. This has a really high upside and high return and he is a great fit for the organization in a lot of different ways on the field and off.
Epstein on Baldelli’s health:
First off, we have done a lot of research and I think our first meeting was early thoroughly mid November and spent a lot of time researching it. I think that there is recognition on the part of the club that this is an on-going process and that there is a lot of reason for optimism. First and foremost Rocco’s approach to the situation and obviously he has left no stone unturned on his own behalf and finding answers and he is starting to find really significant answers and good answers. And the infrastructure we have in place for the Red Sox with the Massachusetts General hospital and the other resources we have in place for us have proven to be a really good fit. There is a lot of reason for optimism. Again as Rocco said there is no definite answer and I think it will be a dynamic process and we will continue to learn more things as Rocco hits the field for Spring training. He is dedicated and hard working athlete and we wouldn’t have made this signing if we weren’t really optimistic that he could make a significant contribution. We will remain partners if there are some roadblocks along the way as there may be for any athlete we will remain partners and try to get to the bottom of and put him in a position to succeed.
Baldelli on playing at Fenway:
Well I have always enjoyed coming home and playing with the rays being in the same division you get to come home multiple times a year. It’s always a different experience. I always end up seeing more than a couple of people that I know and making time for them which is a whole different thing all together. I always come and have a great time in the city. I’ve been a visitor of the city, I don’t know how many times growing up. I feel comfortable here almost as if it’s my hometown. Obviously I am from Rhode Island but this is probably the place where I’d come with my family or friends even through high school and all the way up until now.
Baldelli on knowing when this signing would happen:
I think the last day or two. I figured this was the decision I was going to make. It happened fairly quickly, everything got wrapped up and I couldn’t be happier.
Francona on where he will be playing because he is so versatile:
That’s why we signed him. No, we don’t know that. As Theo kind of alluded to, like we do with every player, we’ll work with him and we’ll be partners – I thought that was a really good word–and we’ll try to get the most out of if not only Rocco, but everybody on our team and that’s what we’ll always try to do. We will continue to do that as we get to know him.
Francona’s impressions of Baldelli as an opponent:
I didn’t like him as much when that ball went over the green monster. Actually, I told him this when we first had lunch back in November I saw him play in the Carolina league. He was a young kid and he was playing against the Indians in the minor league and he kind of stuck out because he was obviously very talented and was on the quick route to the major leagues. Because what was asked a minute ago, he can play left right and center. He can catch the ball. He can run the bases. He can hit a homerun and he is a great kid. That seems like a good fit. If there are some risks it seems like its kind of worth it from our side because he is a very accountable as a player and as a person and that makes us feel good.
Baldelli on his progress over the past year:
That a difficult thing to do. I didn’t know exactly what was going to be expected of me last year going into spring training while dealing with the issues that I’ve had. I went in and probably did a lot more than I should have done. At the time I was still trying to go out and play every single day and that was the only option to me at the time. Mentally, I’ve never been in a situation where I haven’t and an everyday player and mentally that was an adjustment to me. Eventually that wore me down a little bit. I came to the conclusion that the best thing for me and my career and also for the team that I am on that I take a step back and not be an everyday player and try to accept what my body will give me and I was able to do that and I got some good results when I did that. It’s not the easiest adjustment to make but it’s something that I think helped my career.
Baldelli on his health:
Going into last year and dealing with the media in Tampa what I would always say is that I am having tests done and I will have the results later. They probably thought that I was lying to them or maybe they didn’t know what to believe. But the tests I took way back when came back did come back eventually and took more than till the end of the season to come back. It was more of a re-diagnosis I would say then a misdiagnosis. I wouldn’t call it that at all. At the time that was the best thing we had to go with that was the consensus among the specialists that I was working with. The results were positive. The results that we got back were definitely something that I was excited about both for my personal health and for my ability to get on the field.
Epstein: From our end I don’t think it’s appropriate to go into any great detail. But the re-diagnosis that Rocco referred to and this process of having expert specialist and continue to take tests and refine the diagnosis and refine the treatments that seemed to be working was important to us because it provided a real framework for optimism that there could be an increase in the amount that Rocco can contribute from last year for example. We certainly have a genuine basis for that optimism and can’t wait for the season to get started.
Baldelli on possibly becoming an everyday player again:
Absolutely. I think the competitive nature of being an athlete I don’t think anyone wants to reserve themselves at the age of 27 to not being able to play every day. I do have hopes of getting out on the field as much as possible and I don’t know what that number is or what it could be but it’s something that I do think about. I think it’s probably a positive, healthy thing to think like that as opposed to just staying resigned to the fact that I play once a week, X amount of days — it’s something I hope for.