That's just what happened as Baldelli, 28, began his baseball comeback last week with the Charlotte Stone Crabs, the Rays' Class A Advanced affiliate.
First, he was an outfielder, then an occasional DH, then a coach. Putting a label on Baldelli these days is a bit more difficult.
"I don't know what I am," he said with a grin prior to Saturday's game against the Clearwater Threshers.
Baldelli injured his shoulder with the Red Sox late last season, his only one in the pros not in the employ of the Rays. Once a budding superstar, the 2000 sixth-round pick has had a series of physical issues, including a diagnosis of channelopathy, which causes severe muscle fatigue. He hasn't been the same since but has shown flashes of his past in recent seasons, specifically in the 2008 AL Championship Series against Boston when he came off the bench to drive in four runs in two games as the Rays advanced to the World Series.
Baldelli found himself back with the Rays after injuring his right arm. He didn't sign with another team, instead taking a coaching position with Tampa Bay that included an unspoken agreement he'd attempt a comeback if he felt ready.
"I wouldn't have bet this was going to happen because I didn't know how my body would feel, especially my arm," Baldelli said. "I was not sure if my arm was going to come back to the point where I was going to be able to throw. I just figured I'd give it some time and see how my body responded and, in the meantime, I'd do some things with the organization."
Baldelli and Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talked "regularly" and kept the door open for a comeback as a player.
"I was hitting in batting practice throughout the year, but I never faced live pitching," Baldelli said. "(Friedman) asked how I felt, and I said I was good and then he said, 'You think it's time?'"
Last week was time.
Whether he returns to St. Petersburg to join the parent club is Friedman's decision, not his, Baldelli said. To resume playing at Charlotte is like putting on a comfortable pair of cleats, he added.
"I have known a lot of these guys, some since they have signed," Baldelli said. "I've been around the [Rays'] Minor League system, and they are all good guys and some are very talented players who will play at the highest level.
"This is fun. It's a good group."
Stone Crabs DH and utility player Stephen Vogt thinks it's pretty neat that a guy who was coaching him a few short weeks ago is now a trusted teammate.
"He taught me how to go back on balls and also taught me that guys will hit one over your head from time to time, so don't get too stressed out over that," Vogt said. "He taught me how to read stats to know how to [position one's self] in the outfield against certain hitters.
"It's really special whenever you can be around a big leaguer. It's a nice treat for us. Rocco is such a great guy and a lot of fun in the clubhouse. He keeps things pretty light. It's great to see him be able to make a comeback and, hopefully, he will be able to help out the Rays."
One-man gang: Dunedin 3B Mark Sobolewski went on a tear July 24 with seven RBIs in a doubleheader, six of which came in the opener -- a 10-5 win at Bradenton. Sobolewski single-handedly beat the Marauders with a pair of homers and a double.
Unhittable: When Fort Myers RHP Matthew Williams took the mound against Lakeland on July 19, it was his first start in two years. He may have to start more often. Williams, working five innings, didn't allow a hit, walked two and struck out three but didn't get a decision in the Flying Tigers' 1-0 win.
Clean cut: Tampa 2B Corban Joseph has a neat haircut and a clean-shaven face, but that wasn't always the case. When he was drafted by the Yankees in 2008, his style was anything but neat and trim. The organization has a strict dress code that forbids facial hair and long hair. Joseph's test of that code didn't last long. "When I first got here, I had really long hair, down the back of my neck," he said. "After a few days, they came up to me and said, 'All right, these are the rules: You have to shave and you have to cut your hair.' I didn't have a beard, but I had some chin hair. ... Well, whatever I could grow at the time."