The Nationals’ decision to activate Mark DeRosa and place Xavier Nady on the disabled list was, Manager Davey Johnson said, “a no-brainer.” DeRosa was simply a healthier option than Nady, who was hurting more than anyone outside the Nationals’ clubhouse knew.
After seven weeks spent healing a strained oblique and grieving the death of his father, DeRosa felt ready to come back and provide a versatile bat off the bench and offer guidance to the Nationals’ young roster. And after playing through tendinitis in his wrist all season, Nady received a cortisone shot and two weeks of rest to go with it.
Nady, Johnson said, had been receiving treatment since the start of the season on his right wrist. Johnson likened Nady’s situation to Ryan Zimmerman playing through inflammation in his right shoulder. Like Zimmerman, Nady has been a husk of himself, hitting .157/.211/.275 over 40 games this season.
“I put him in the same boat with Zim,” Johnson said. “They feel like they can play through something. It’s not going to get any worse, but it hasn’t been getting any better. We’ve got a real good orthopedic doctor. He said it could get worse, and then he’d definitely be out for a while. It just made sense.”
DeRosa has been on the disabled list since April 28, but the Nationals deemed him ready after a four-game rehab assignment in which he went 1 for 11 with four walks. DeRosa said his time at Class A Potomac felt “like spring training all over again. He took the time to fully heal his oblique, but he needs to play the rest of his body back into baseball shape.
“You kind of like to get through the spring training soreness, and your body falls into a cruise control where you know what it takes to get though the game,” DeRosa said. “Now I feel like I have to start back over. I walked in there today, and I’m like, ‘My oblique is the one thing that feels good. Everything else feels like hell.’ ”
DeRosa has been through a trying season beyond his injury. He arrived at spring training, after the Nationals signed him to a one-year contract, feeling better than he had in years, his left wrist finally healthy after three operations. Then he strained his oblique three weeks into the season.
Then something much, much worse: The cancer his father, Jack, had seemingly beaten five years ago returned. DeRosa spent many days and nights in the hospital and with his family. Jack DeRosa died in the middle of June.
“It’s been rough,” DeRosa said. “It’s been rough. It is what it is, though. It’s good to be back and be around the guys and try to take your mind off it and keep grinding. It’s been three years of rehab assignments and my father’s passing and all that. It’s been tough. It’s been tough more mentally than physically.”
DeRosa believes returning to baseball and the camaraderie of the clubhouse will help. “This is your job,” DeRosa said. “You hate to watch it on TV every night.”
Before his injury, DeRosa went 3 for 37. He can provide a backup at third base if Zimmerman needs to rest his shoulder, which would allow the Nationals to keep Steve Lombardozzi in left field. DeRosa’s best contribution may be his influence. One day when DeRosa joined the team while rehabbing, Ian Desmond said he was especially happy because “DeRosa’s here.”
“I think that was the biggest reason I was brought in here, to be honest with you,” DeRosa said. “To get some timely hits off the bench, to give guys some breathers and to help some of the younger guys develop as players. That’s great for me.”
DeRosa mentioned Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore as players he particularly enjoyed watching “come into their own” in the majors. He also marveled at Bryce Harper, with whom he has yet to share the field.
“To watch what Harp is doing at 19, it’s unbelievable when you really sit back and think about it,” DeRosa said. “I know everyone wants to critique every little thing he does. I look at it and try to put myself when I was 19, what I was doing. I was a freshman in college. I didn’t know where the hell I was going. This guy is batting second on a first-place team in the NL East.”