Word trickled out late Wednesday night that the Minnesota Twins were drawing closer to selecting a manager, and it appears that choice will be former Tampa Bay Rays outfielder and current coach Rocco Baldelli.
LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was first on the spot with the news:
Fox 9 Sports followed up with a confirmation:
And finally, national baseball reporter Jon Heyman confirmed as well:
The 37-year-old Baldelli is a native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island and was selected sixth overall in the 2000 MLB Draft by the Devil Rays. He reached the big leagues in 2003, and hit .289/.326/.416 as a 21-year-old center fielder to finish third in that year’s Rookie of the Year balloting.
Royals shortstop Angel Berroa and Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui finished Nos. 1-2.
That was the only time Baldelli played over 150 games in a season in his MLB career, however. He played 136 games the next season with nearly identical production (.280/.326/.436), and then missed the entire 2005 season with a mysterious muscular/metabolic disorder that limited him to just 222 more games over the next five seasons.
Baldelli almost immediately joined the Rays staff in a coaching capacity, working his way up to first base coach and ultimately major-league field coordinator last season.
Baldelli was a hotly-contested managerial candidate this offseason, interviewing for as many as five openings before agreeing to manage the Twins.
Why was Baldelli so highly sought after?
As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, Baldelli is a terrific communicator, young, dynamic and well-versed in analytics — all things highly regarded in today’s game. He’s also a humble man with ample life experience based on the hand he was dealt health-wise, something former Twins beat reporter Mike Berardino wrote up masterfully during his time with the Miami Sun-Sentinel.
Here are some videos to get a better feel of what Baldelli is all about:
Stay tuned to Zone Coverage as the story continues to develop. There’s a chance the Twins will hold a press conference as early as Thursday — a World Series travel day — to confirm their selection. We’ll be providing onsite reporting from Target Field, whenever that happens.