Nationals utility man Mark DeRosa last started a game at shortstop in 2006. He last played the position in any game in 2008. It was his position as a young player, but the legs are heavier now at age 37, the reaction time slowed.
But 24 hours after his team wrapped up the National League East title, with manager Davey Johnson seeking to rest his regulars, DeRosa found himself back at his original position. He was one of seven bench players to start Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies and the self-described Goon Squad came through in style in a 4-2 victory.
“It’s stuff on the bus that we can needle the starters about,” DeRosa said. “The Goon Squad comes through again. But we got some guys that are capable of playing every day.”
DeRosa singled in the sixth inning and doubled to deep center in the eighth, just missing what would have been his first home run since 2010 before chronic wrist injuries sapped him of his once 20-homer power. His teammates screamed out at him from the dugout after the double, Jayson Werth curling his biceps in mock tribute, and DeRosa just shook his head and mouthed an expletive. So close.
DeRosa was a shortstop coming up through the minors with the Atlanta Braves and part of his first two big league seasons there before the arrival of Rafael Furcal in 2000 pushed him into a utility role.
“I appreciate Davey giving me that. Kind of come full circle, finish it off nice,” DeRosa said.
He made a nice catch-and-throw on a 1-6-3 double play turned by Washington in the second inning. That was a promising start given the questions about DeRosa’s defense coming into the game.
“And then I botched a routine one,” DeRosa said after a hard, but relatively routine grounder by John Mayberry, Jr. in the third inning clicked off his glove for an error. “No, I feel all right. It’s angles. It’s just foot speed. Trying to keep up with guys like [Ian Desmond] and the good shortstops. But it was fun to be out there.”
DeRosa was signed in the offseason as a veteran bat off the bench, but things haven’t gone as hoped. He missed most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the San Francisco Giants thanks to a lingering wrist injury that required three separate surgeries. An oblique tear kept him on the disabled list from April 29 to June 26. Then a groin injury struck and kept him on the shelf from Aug. 5 to Sept. 2. And he has endured far, far worse in 2012. DeRosa’s father, Jack, passed away after a long battle with cancer on June 12. He had even hoped that long double Tuesday would go over the fence as a small tribute to his dad.
“For me personally it’s been a frustrating season, but I don’t even worry about it,” DeRosa said. “What this team’s accomplished, what I’ve been able to be a part of this year has been pretty special. Personal stuff goes out the door. We got a chance to do something really great and win a World Series.”
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