Addition of DeRosa gives Giants offensive punch
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – For several years, Mark DeRosa daydreamed of eventually playing in San Francisco. He enjoys the city’s vibe and atmosphere, from walking to the ballpark to trying out top restaurants.
“I felt like it would be a cool place to play and an interesting place to bring my family,” he said.
For several years, the Giants pictured DeRosa’s powerful bat contributing in the middle of their lineup.
There was mutual interest three years ago when DeRosa first became a free agent. Now, both sides are finally getting their wish. DeRosa signed a $12 million, two-year contract with the club after passing a physical Monday.
In DeRosa, the Giants have found a versatile veteran who can hit for power and give the offense some much-needed punch.
One of general manager Brian Sabean’s top priorities this winter was to add a big hitter to drive in runs in the middle of the batting order, and DeRosa brings that ability. He can play several infield spots and the outfield, and it’s unclear whether he will work primarily at third base or bounce around.
“The position I’d prefer to play is shortstop because that’s the position I played as a kid. But that doesn’t matter anymore,” DeRosa said. “I don’t really care where I am on the field as long as I’m in the lineup. … I’ve never really fought to play one position.”
That attitude sure is helpful for manager Bruce Bochy, who might continue to count on DeRosa as a utilityman.
Free-swinging slugger Pablo Sandoval is likely to bat cleanup, so DeRosa could easily fit into the No. 5 hole. DeRosa could play first or third.
“He can play anywhere, he’s comfortable playing anywhere and seems to thrive moving around,” Bochy said.
The 34-year-old DeRosa underwent left wrist surgery after the season, when he batted .250 with a career-best 23 homers to go along with 78 RBIs for Cleveland and St. Louis. He said the Giants’ training staff was “pleasantly surprised” by his progress during Monday’s physical and he expects to start swinging off a tee in a couple of weeks. The aim is to be full strength by the start of spring training in February.
“He’s a winning player and any organization wants as many players like Mark on the ballclub, especially ours that has a chance to turn the corner and get to the playoffs next year,” Sabean said. “To get him in here, he spoke of his willingness to show guys around a little bit. We need that. We need to get to the next level with guys like him.”
DeRosa was traded from the Indians to the Cardinals on June 27 but was in the St. Louis lineup for three games before hurting his wrist against San Francisco. He spent a stint on the disabled list for an injury that was later diagnosed as a partially torn tendon sheath.
DeRosa was hindered by the wrist, but felt he had to play through it after the Cardinals brought him aboard to help get to the playoffs.
“Looking back on it now, don’t know if I would have done the same thing,” he said of waiting to have surgery until after the season. “It affected everything I did.”
The Giants are eager to see him healthy and ready for a new start come spring. DeRosa said he chose San Francisco over about a half-dozen other teams – including going back to the Cardinals.
He led St. Louis with five hits (5 for 13) when it was swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL division series.
DeRosa acknowledged being “very close” to returning to St. Louis.
“They’re obviously full go on Matt Holliday. I wasn’t prepared to wait until he made a decision,” DeRosa said. “I was just tired of being a lot of teams’ Plan Bs. From a certain standpoint, I wanted to go to a place where I felt comfortable and the team wanted and needed me to be productive. I just felt like this was a good spot.”
DeRosa is a career .275 hitter with Atlanta, Texas, the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland and St. Louis. With DeRosa and new hitting coach Hensley Meulens, San Francisco is looking for a more patient approach at the plate focused on on-base percentage rather than just stepping in and swinging away.
“You have to find an identity early on and we didn’t do that last year and it came back and bit us,” Sabean said.
The Giants also are working on a deal to bring back infielder Juan Uribe. The 30-year-old Uribe played in 122 games at third, shortstop and second in his first season with San Francisco. He batted .289 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs.
San Francisco was in the NL wild-card chase well into September but missed the postseason for the sixth straight year. At 88-74, they won 16 more games than in 2008. Sabean has been committed to boosting the offense for a team that boasts one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, led by two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
“That was one of the big overriding factors when I decided where wanted to play, the pitching factor,” DeRosa said. “Pitching wins games.”