Starting at first, DeRosa set for anything
Shift to foreign position a necessity with injuries piling on Team USA
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Mark DeRosa most recently played first base in 2008, in place of Derrek Lee for one game. (Elsa/Getty)
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LOS ANGELES -- Mark DeRosa worked out at first base on Saturday and will start at the position -- foreign to him -- at Dodger Stadium on Sunday night for Team USA in its single-elimination World Baseball Classic semifinal game against Japan.
DeRosa, who is subbing for the injured and departed Kevin Youkilis, has played 13 of his 785 games at first base over the course of 11 Major League seasons.
DeRosa said he'll give it his best shot over there.
"I'm probably the least comfortable at that position because of time served over there," DeRosa said on Saturday after he played the position during Team USA's workout at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. "Ultimately -- which is nice -- we're playing at Dodger Stadium, which I think has the best infield in the game.
"You've got to believe the guys can hit me [with their throws] in the chest from across the diamond. So we should be fine."
The decision to play DeRosa at first, along with the availability of Ryan Braun (strained right oblique muscle) and David Wright (cracked nail on his left big toe), sets up manager Davey Johnson's alignment for the must-win game.
Johnson said on Saturday that he's moving Adam Dunn back to right field and is starting Wright at third base and Braun in left field. Derek Jeter will be the shortstop, with Jimmy Rollins as the designated hitter. Curtis Granderson will probably start in center.
On Friday, Wright said he was good to go.
"I'm feeling fine -- I'm 100 percent," Wright said.
Braun said he was eager to play. The decision was made that he would do so when the U.S. worked out on Saturday morning.
Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who was added to the roster for the semifinals and finals, was also present at the workout. But Johnson said he doesn't anticipate having to rush Longoria into action.
"It's nice to have Evan," Johnson said. "I'm not expecting to use him. He's an insurance policy."
DeRosa, a member of the Indians, said his last tour at first base came when he was with the Cubs last season and he had to fill in for the injured Derrek Lee. But he played there only once.
"My biggest fear is that a guy like Jonathon Broxton tries to pick over at 90 miles per hour," DeRosa said. "That's my fear. No, I kind of understand where I need to be on bunt plays and cutoffs. I've moved around my whole career, so I've got a good feel for the game. Ultimately, you just go back to catching the ball -- just be there and make plays."
Johnson said that Ted Lilly had left the team on Saturday for personal reasons, but was expected to return in time for Sunday's game.