Healthy DeRosa hopes to regain stroke

Healthy DeRosa hopes to regain stroke
February 22, 2012, 3:28 pm
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VIERA, Fla. -- When a tendon in his left wrist snapped last May while he stood in the batter's box watching a Clayton Kershaw breaking ball hit the dirt in front of him, Mark DeRosa had no idea if he'd ever play again.

Watch the video of that bizarre, non-contact injury taking place and you can read DeRosa's lips as a Giants trainer comes rushing out to check on him: "I'm done."

Nine months later, the veteran utilityman (he turns 37 on Sunday) feels a whole lot better about his chances of not only playing in the big leagues for years to come, but of regaining the power stroke that made him such a valuable player before his ongoing wrist troubles derailed his career.

"To be honest with you, since I ruptured it, that's the best it's felt," DeRosa said this morning after reporting to Nationals camp. "I was able to come back last year after rehabbing and play in September and played pretty well. So I'm excited."

Indeed, DeRosa's strong finish to an otherwise wretched 2011 in San Francisco -- he hit .367 in 29 games -- gives him and the Nationals reason to believe he has made a full recovery.

There are still some questions, though. After hitting 20-plus homers in back-to-back seasons in 2008-09 with the Cubs, DeRosa produced only one extra-base hit upon returning from his last surgery.

Can he get that power stroke back?

"We're going to find out," he said. "It feels as good as it felt since before the injury, swinging a bat this offseason. I'm really interested. Because that is the name of the game, driving in runs and being a dangerous hitter and occasionally driving the ball out of the ballpark. I hope to get back to that."

The Nationals appear to have big plans for DeRosa, who signed a one-year, 800,000 contract in December, using him as a "super-utility" man who can play all four corner positions as well as second base.

DeRosa's locker features three different types of gloves: an outfielder's mitt, an infielder's mitt and a first baseman's mitt. What about a catcher's mitt? "No, I'm not going back there," he insisted with a laugh.

Having done just about everything in his career, DeRosa is perfectly comfortable holding down this kind of role.

"However I can get on the field," he said. "That's how I got my start, being a utility guy. It's kind of coming full circle, coming back to it, which I'm not happy about but I also understand. I'm pretty comfortable playing wherever."

Though he reported to camp three days before the Nationals hold their first full-squad workout, DeRosa was actually one of the final position players in camp. Only minor-league invitee Xavier Paul has yet to arrive.

DeRosa, who lives in Atlanta, wanted to enjoy as much offseason time as he could with his wife and two kids before joining his new club. Washington's proximity to Atlanta was one factor in his decision to sign, but so was the name of the Nationals' manager.

"Davey," he said. "He was my manager for that World Baseball Classic in 2009 and I really enjoyed spending time with him."

DeRosa will enjoy himself even more this season if that surgically repaired wrist finally is 100 percent healed and allows him to be the player he always wanted to be.

"It certainly zapped my career for a little bit," he said. "I felt like I was coming into my own at that point after those two years in Chicago. "It's just been a grind the last two and a half years. I look forward to being out there and being healthy, not being in the training room all the time, and being around the guys and able to help."