TORONTO - It appears Mark DeRosa will finish his 16th major league season with the Toronto Blue Jays, the club valuing his experience and leadership so much it wouldn't lose him to a waiver claim.
“He's helped stabilize some things” said manager John Gibbons. “I know he's really helped Lawrie. He's just that proven vet that everybody bounces things off of. He's got the right things to say at the right time. It's been a frustrating year but, you know, he's helped stabilize some things.”
According to numerous reports, DeRosa was claimed on revocable waivers on Wednesday. A routine paper move, had the player cleared the Blue Jays would have been free to trade DeRosa at any point in August or September.
Once DeRosa was claimed, the Jays had a decision to make: deal or no deal with the selecting club. CBS Sports reported the team which took DeRosa was, like the Blue Jays, under .500, therefore not increasing the veteran's likelihood of competing in the playoffs.
DeRosa has a World Series ring as a member of the 2010 San Francisco Giants but, due to injury, he doesn't consider himself a contributor to the championship.
The Blue Jays hold an option on DeRosa for 2014 for $750,000. The 38-year-old doesn't yet know whether he'll play next season.
“I go back and forth on it everyday,” said DeRosa. “I think my family will play a huge part in that. That's something, in the offseason, we'll sit down and discuss as a family. I've been gone for a long time and my wife always has the line, ‘Do you want to raise 24 men or do you want to raise your own son?' A little bit below the belt for her to tell me those things but I understand wholeheartedly. It'll be a family decision but I still think I can compete.”
DeRosa has proven to himself he can still play. Coming off three down seasons thanks to two surgeries to repair a torn tendon sheath in his wrist, the first of which was botched, DeRosa knew in spring training he had some pop back in his bat.
He was driving the ball during batting practice, something he couldn't do during the worst days of his injury. This season, afforded more of an opportunity to play than he anticipated, he's hit seven home runs and posted an OPS of .769, which is above his career average.
“I'm appreciative of the way Gibby has used me,” said DeRosa. “I don't think coming out of spring training I was expecting or he was expecting to use me as much as he has. I'm glad I've changed that opinion. I know the team has had something to do with that and our struggles have given me more opportunity to play. He's handled me really great. He's kept me fresh. He's kept me involved. The way he's handled me has been perfect.”
More valuable than his numbers is DeRosa's ability to connect with anyone in the clubhouse. Lawrie tops the list and the two have shared neighbouring locker stalls since the start of spring training. They've golfed together, can be seen arriving to visiting ballparks together, and have struck up a friendship despite a 15-year age difference.
“He's been tremendous,” said Lawrie, who at 23 is the mentee to DeRosa's mentor. “What a good dude. I haven't met anybody for that fact, in baseball, that's been around the game like him. His personality is exactly like mine. He's just one of the guys. He has good energy. He comes to the clubhouse everyday with a smile, brings a good attitude. He's just been around the game a long time. He's been to 11 postseasons. He's been in the game for 14, 15 years. There are not a lot of guys that have been around like he has and have gone to the extent, he's won a World Series and he's done all these things and he knows what it takes to win. He knows what it takes to be in the big leagues for a long, extended period of time and that's beneficial to me.”
“Being more of a big brother for him,” said DeRosa of his responsibility toward Lawrie. “Letting him vent, letting him say what he needs to say and then picking and choosing what battles to fight with him. You don't just want to flood a guy with a million things to think about. I think with him it's got to be in steps but he has to understand the importance of being accountable, being in the right place at the right time, being consistent.”
Lawrie has touched nerves this season, perhaps no more so than when he stared down Adam Lind and third base coach Luis Rivera when Lind didn't score on a fly ball during a June 22 game against Baltimore.
DeRosa said then, and repeats now, that Lawrie has a unique intensity which comes from a good place even if, on occasion, its appearance is ugly.
As to the fundamentals of the game, DeRosa's spoken to Lawrie about how the intensity, the constant movement, can be beneficial on defence but ineffective in the batter's box. He's been persistent in delivering the message, as well as others, and he believes it's starting to sink in.
When sharing his wisdom, he's quick to remind teammates he's passing along information from the greats with whom he's played; the likes of Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield.
DeRosa is someone players, and even the manager, can confide in.
“I talk to him about different things, no question,” said Gibbons. “The thing about DeRo, he's a levelheaded guy. I mean, he's highly intelligent and he's been around, man. He's been around winners his whole life, his whole career.”
“He tells you straight up, he's not going to lie to you,” said Lawrie. “He tells you everything that's on his mind and says I'm going to be honest with you. I say, go ahead and shoot me with it because that's how I am, I like to know the truth, I like to know what's on his mind and obviously everyone else's but for myself, a guy that's 38-years-old that's been around the game for this long and done everything he's done, it's a lot of fun for myself.”
DeRosa is a stand-up guy, good to his teammates, good to his coaches, good to those around the team. An Ivy Leaguer, he quarterbacked Penn's football team for three seasons in the mid-1990s, DeRosa is also intelligent and approachable on all matters of the game.
He'll play again in 2014 if he gets the blessing of his wife and two children and if he feels like going through the rigours of another offseason of training.
Don't mistake the decision he'll make, whatever it is, for his view of the Blue Jays.
“I still believe in the talent in this room,” he said. “I know it hasn't jelled for whatever reason. There are a ton of reasons why it hasn't worked from an offensive standpoint and a pitching standpoint, a defensive standpoint. I still believe that this team is capable of great things with a couple of tweaks, a couple of adjustments.”