Mark DeRosa has played in 22 playoff games and slugged 93 home runs over 14 major leagues seasons, the kind of resume that makes a hitter shrug when he hits a spring training homer. For DeRosa, though, the line drive he smashed over the left field fence yesterday meant something more.
When he returned to the dugout, he shouted “I’m back!” and laughed with his teammates, telling them they should name wrist surgery after him, like they named ligament-replacement surgery after Tommy John. After three wrist operations since 2009 limited him to 73 games over the past two years, DeRosa wondered if he still had the power left to blast a pitch over the fence. Against Jonny Venters, one of the best relievers in baseball, he showed himself he did.
“It’s been a long, frustrating 2 ½ years,” DeRosa said. “That one swing yesterday kind of woke me up a little bit.”
Earlier this spring, DeRosa jokingly asked hitting coach Rick Eckstein if he could switch out of a batting practice group that included Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. “These guys were hitting homers and giving me a complex,” DeRosa said. His swing felt good, but even during batting practice he wasn’t hitting many balls over the fence.
DeRosa, though, has been gaining confidence in his wrist through the spring. The most important part about his home run yesterday, he thought, was the approach he took. Venters threw him a first-pitch ball low. He stepped out of the batter’s box and told himself if Venters threw a similar pitch up and in the zone, he would attack it.
“For me, the big thing was I had a different mindset,” DeRosa said. “Normally, I would guard against it, maybe push it to right. I’m getting more confident with the ability to trust that I can go get it.”
DeRosa hit one home run in spring training last year, but before that his last homer came on opening day, 2010. He kept one spring homer in perspective, but also understood what it represented for him.
“It was very important; it was,” DeRosa said. “It won’t mean nothing if in two weeks from now I start getting sore, but for right now every day, it just seems to be getting better.”