Associated Press photo
Jayson Werth is congratulated following his solo homer yesterday.
Which development was rarer? Tough to say, because neither happened with any regularity last year.
Actually, DeRosa didn't homer once during his abbreviated regular season with the Giants, his surgically repaired wrist still hindering his swing enough to prevent him from hitting for any power. The veteran utilityman's last home run actually came on Feb. 28 in a Cactus League game. His last regular-season homer? Not since April 4, 2010.
So when DeRosa clobbered a fourth-inning pitch from Atlanta lefty Jonny Venters yesterday, the significance of the moment wasn't lost on the 37-year-old. As he was congratulated in the Nationals' dugout, the popular veteran started bragging to his teammates.
"Whoa! Wow! I'm back!" DeRosa exclaimed, according to Davey Johnson.
"He's been talking about [how] he doesn't belong on this club with all these big guys hitting home runs," the manager said. "That was a bullet."
Indeed, DeRosa's solo shot sailed on a line to left field, piercing its way through a crosswind that pushed plenty of other fly balls during the day toward right field.
It was only one home run in the first week of Grapefruit League play, but if it was a precursor of things to come, the Nationals will gladly take it. They've been cautiously optimistic since signing DeRosa in December that the power stroke that allowed him to hit 23 homers only three seasons ago will return now that his wrist has fully healed from three surgeries.
If it does, DeRosa could prove a vital -- and much-needed -- offensive threat off the bench this season.
The Nationals could also use a return to form out of Werth, coming off his well-documented down year. His second-inning homer yesterday -- he drilled a first-pitch fastball from right-hander Kris Medlen off the top of the right-field wall -- was an encouraging sign in and of itself.
With a reputation as one of baseball's most-patient hitters, often to his detriment, Werth doesn't frequently take a big hack at the first pitch he sees in an at-bat, let alone send it soaring over the fence.
"I mean, when has he ever swung at a first-pitch fastball?" Johnson joked.
Johnson and others on the coaching staff have talked to Werth this spring about being more aggressive early in the count. Perhaps the outfielder is getting the message.
"I know he prides himself on seeing a lot of pitches and leading the league in pitches taken. But I like to be aggressive," Johnson said. "When they throw you a ball that has a lot of the plate, I like to see that lumber coming through there. He's been going after it. He's looked awful good in batting practice."