SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Mark DeRosa had barely been in the clubhouse for five minutes unpacking his things Thursday morning when Aubrey Huff arrived and the razzing began.
DeRosa is loving it. The San Francisco utilityman feels like a new man this spring. He’s healthy at last, truly part of the team again.
His troublesome left wrist finally healed following a second surgery that cost him most of last season, DeRosa is ready to do whatever is asked of him for the reigning World Series champions. Manager Bruce Bochy’s plan: play him everywhere.
“I’m 100 percent ready to go, ready to reclaim my spot in the world,” DeRosa declared with a grin Thursday. “It’s been a year and a half since I’ve swung a bat with no pain. So that’s been the nicest thing, just to go through an offseason doing all the things I’m used to doing—working out, hitting, holding my kids, playing golf. Everything was affected by it.”
DeRosa will take groundballs during camp at each spot of the infield, including shortstop to give the Giants some insurance behind new addition Miguel Tejada.
Bochy and DeRosa met Thursday in the skipper’s office to map out a schedule for the coming weeks, when DeRosa also will get some work in the outfield. He had been projected as the team’s starting left fielder at this point a year ago.
“He’s so versatile because he can play different positions. I think as we get deeper into spring we’ll have a better idea of where we’re at with DeRo,” Bochy said. “Mark, he’s a pro. He says: ‘Hey, if I hit, I’m in the lineup. I’ve been in this game long enough.’ Sure, we’re not in a position to say, ‘Here’s your position right now.’ He understands that.”
DeRosa will play some second base once games begin late next week, especially because starter Freddy Sanchez is coming off arthroscopic surgery on his non-throwing left shoulder—though it isn’t expected to slow him down at all the way a similar procedure did last spring. Sanchez began the 2010 season on the disabled list.
DeRosa isn’t taking for granted he has a roster spot. Not given his injury issues and the fact he turns 36 later this month.
“I’m a realistic guy,” he said. “Do I think I’m a pretty decent player when I’m healthy? Yeah. At the same time, I wasn’t hitting balls in the gap during the World Series. I’m very cognizant of that. I know I’ve got to come in here and kind of reclaim my space on the team. I was also very proud of the way the guys kept me around and kept me involved.”
Last May, DeRosa called the first surgery on his wrist a “failure” and said he might need another procedure, which turned out to be the case.
DeRosa initially underwent left wrist surgery after the 2009 season, when he batted .250 with a career-best 23 homers to go along with 78 RBIs for Cleveland and St. Louis. DeRosa was traded from the Indians to the Cardinals on June 27 that year but was in the St. Louis lineup for three games before hurting his wrist against San Francisco. He spent a stint on the disabled list for an injury that was later diagnosed as a partially torn tendon sheath.
He would like nothing more than to return to his old self.
Watching the World Series was a thrill but difficult at the same time.
“It was bittersweet,” he said. “To watch these guys elevate their game the way they did … I’ve been in the league a long time and wanted a chance to play, but I’m very proud of what they did. I get a ring, which no one can ever take away from me.”
DeRosa experienced a 6-for-50 (.120) funk over his final 12 games last year, lowering his average from .267 to .194. He had one home run and 10 RBIs in only 26 games during his first season with San Francisco and didn’t play again after May 8 — hardly the way he hoped it would go after he received a $12 million, two-year contract.
“I’m just so excited to be healthy. I feel like if I’m healthy, I’m going to play,” DeRosa said.
Both Bochy and DeRosa’s teammates credit him for staying sharp late in the season even if he was on the sideline. DeRosa provided guidance to young players on the roster down the stretch, when the Giants clinched their first NL West title since 2003 on the season’s final day against San Diego.
“Certainly I know he was frustrated from last year,” Huff said. “I know how hard it was for him to sit there and watch us go all the way, but I’ll tell you what, what a team leader having not even played. I can’t be more excited for anybody else on the team than to see him get out there this year and start competing again. He can play anywhere other than pitcher and catcher, really.
“You don’t see the behind-the-scenes things (he did). Even though he wasn’t out there on the field he was very much a part of our team and earned that World Series ring as much as anyone else did.”
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