DeRosa excited to open Tribe chapter
Indians' recent acquisition expected to make transition to third
CLEVELAND -- Golf is a good walk spoiled. And it's spoiled even further with a rattling phone call.Mark DeRosa got that type of phone call on Wednesday afternoon, shortly after he had begun a round of golf in Atlanta. "My game was horrible," DeRosa admitted on Friday on a conference call with reporters. If nothing else, he had an excuse for being distracted. As DeRosa put it, he finished hole No. 2 as the second baseman for the Cubs and teed off on No. 3 as the third baseman for the Indians. In between came the phone call from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, informing DeRosa he had been traded to the Tribe for three Minor League pitchers. "It's strange how your life can change in the matter of one phone call," DeRosa said. But that doesn't mean DeRosa isn't intrigued by his new situation. For one, he said, he feels more comfortable at third than second. And he also feels he's joining a club that can contend, if healthy. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't shocked a little bit," DeRosa said. "But after the [Jake] Peavy saga was unfolding, I knew my name was out there. I'm excited to go to Cleveland and excited to go to third base." DeRosa, 33, has played his share of third over the years. Though he came up as a shortstop with the Braves in 1998, he began moving around the infield and outfield in 2001. All told, he has played 302 games at second, 206 at third, 150 in right field, 139 at shortstop, 41 in left field and 13 at first base with the Braves, Rangers and Cubs. "I've always felt more comfortable on the left side of the infield than at second base," he said. "Injuries and matchups present themselves, and you're forced to move around. I've always put the team first, and that's what I'll continue to do." DeRosa isn't expecting much of an adjustment, when it comes to taking over the hot corner for the Indians. That's part of the reason he's still leaning toward participating for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, which takes place in March. "In talking to some people, I know they'd love for me to be in camp and working at third base and getting to know the guys," DeRosa said. "My heart is telling me to go to the World Baseball Classic because of the experience. If Cleveland tells me they want me to be in camp, that's a different scenario. If they give me the option, then I'm definitely leaning toward playing."
On the day of the trade, manager Eric Wedge said he'd allow DeRosa to play for Team USA. Wedge also said he figures to use DeRosa in the corner outfield at times and, potentially, at second base. The Indians will have flexibility in their infield, with Jhonny Peralta's apparent ability to move from shortstop to third and Asdrubal Cabrera's ability to shift from second to short.Reports are mixed on DeRosa's skills at third. Some scouts feel third is his best infield position, while others claim it's his worst. For what it's worth, the transition from second to third does not worry DeRosa in the least. "I don't think there's going to be any difference, to be honest," he said. "They are two entirely different positions, but it's something I've done for so long. The toughest transition for me was second base -- learning how to make the pivots on the double plays and being in different bunt plays and different scenarios on cutoffs. I think the transition back to the left side will be a smooth one." The outfield, on the other hand, has him less confident. He was asked if he has a best spot in the outfield. "I really don't think I have a best one," he said with a laugh. "But if you can play right field in Wrigley on a windy day with the sun in your eyes, I think I'll be able to get it done." Wrigley's cozy confines are perceived to have aided DeRosa's power numbers, though he only hit one more homer at home (11) than he did on the road (10) last season. The more startling stat is the homer total, in general. His previous career-high, before the 21 he hit last season, was the 13 he hit with the Rangers in 2006. "I feel like I've gotten better as a hitter over the course of my career," DeRosa said. "I've been around some great hitters and had a great hitting coach in Texas who really changed my career. I've been blessed to be around guys like Chipper Jones and Michael Young. I've picked the brains of the great players I've been around. I'm confident when I got to the plate that I have a game plan and will give myself the best chance to be successful." DeRosa said it "stung" to leave a Cubs team that he felt was finally close to getting over that championship hump. The Indians, of course, are enduring that same ongoing struggle, and DeRosa believes the Tribe has the pieces to be successful. One of the newest pieces is closer Kerry Wood, and his presence on the roster certainly will make the transition easier on DeRosa. "He was one of the guys I was closest to in Chicago and one of the first calls I received when the trade went down," DeRosa said. "For selfish reasons, he's excited, but he said he'd give it a couple days to sink in before we had a real conversation." DeRosa is also planning on having an extended conversation with his new bosses. "I've heard nothing but great things about the manager," he said. "I plan on flying up next week sometime and going out to dinner with Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge and getting to know them and getting them to meet my family as well." Perhaps they'll offer up an apology for what they did to DeRosa's golf game.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.