DENVER — To say the the last two months haven’t gone the way Mark DeRosa had planned would be a grave understatement.
“It’s been rough,” the veteran utility man said Monday from the visitors’ clubhouse at Coors Field. “It’s been pretty rough.”
DeRosa was taking batting practice in Los Angeles on April 28 when he felt his left oblique tighten up and he knew something was wrong. The injury alone was frustrating enough for a guy who’d spent the better part of his last two seasons rehabbing a difficult wrist injury. But a few weeks later, his father Jack suffered a recurrence of a cancer he’d thought he’d beaten years ago. In the second week of June, Jack passed away.
“It’s been three years of rehab assignments and my father’s passing and all that,” DeRosa said. “It’s been tough. It’s been tough more mentally than physically… But it’s good to be back and be around the guys and try to take your mind off it and keep grinding.”
“Coming into spring training the only thing I was concerned about was my wrist,” he added. “I was probably in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time and then to have this creep up and have it linger for so long and then deal with the personal issues at home, it’s been a rough start. But we’re playing well and we’re in first place. I’ll come back and help in any way I can.”
In that regard, DeRosa will serve as a right-handed outfield option as well as backup infielder and possibly could see time spelling Ryan Zimmerman, who is dealing with inflammation in his right AC joint, at third base. It’s been over seven weeks since DeRosa played a major league game so getting himself back into game shape will be paramount.
“I walked into (the training room) today and I’m like ‘My oblique is the one thing that feels good. Everything else feels like hell,’” DeRosa said. “You kind of get back into the flow of playing everyday. I’ll roll with it.”
DeRosa was 1-for-11 with three strikeouts and four walks in his four-game rehab assignment with Single-A Potomac. He came away satisfied that his oblique issue was behind him and joked that, having played for the Durham club when they were affiliated with the Braves, he went the longest in the history of the Carolina league between hits (16 years).
One of the biggest reasons the Nationals are happy to have DeRosa back is his influence on other players. When they signed DeRosa this offseason, both sides knew a large part of his appeal was his ability to work with younger players and relay his knowledge of the game to help the whole team improve.
“I get a big kick out of watching guys like (second baseman Danny Espinosa) and (shortstop Ian Desmond) come into their own,” DeRosa said. (Steve Lombardozzi). Seeing (Tyler Moore) come up and play well. If I can be a sounding board for those type of guys, I want to be it, because there was guys before me. I picked everyone’s brain. Chipper Jones. Mike Young. Albert Pujols. I’m still picking brains. If the guy at the gas station has a hitting tip, I’ll take it. I’ve always been like that.”