DeRosa Ready To Be Starting Third Baseman

The Atlanta Braves open their 2004 season on Tuesday against the New York Mets. Mark DeRosa starts his career as the Braves new starting third baseman. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks spoke with DeRosa as he prepares for this new chapter in his career.

SHANKS: I know you've been up here a few years as a major leaguer, but how is this different as you prepare to be a starter?

DEROSA: It definitely is. I'm kinda a little confused by it because I've always been a role guy up here, a bench guy. So I tried to put on a little extra weight and tried to work some things out. But I think if I just go out there and play my type of ball and be aggressive that's the biggest key. You know I've gotten a few big hits for this team and my teammates believe in me. I know I belong up here. I think the big thing for me is to go out there everyday – it's going to be a grind and something I'm not use to.

SHANKS: Have you learned a lot about the game by watching from the bench the last few years?

DEROSA: Absolutely. You can't help but learn on this ball club with the superstars that have come through the doors here and the superstars that are still here. It's nothing but knowledge. I've picked the brains of so many great players. I think it can only help me during the course of a full season.

SHANKS: What is the hardest thing about playing third base?

DEROSA: I think the hardest thing is I'm use to playing short and second, which are a little more finesse positions. Third's a little more right on top, a reaction position which you've got to make sure you've got the proper footwork, and that's something I worked hard on this spring.

SHANKS: You probably know that a lot of fans are wondering what kind of numbers you can produce. Are you setting any goals?

DEROSA: I have goals. I definitely have goals, but I don't think I'm going to go public with them just to save face. I've always been a guy who has kept the goals to himself. The number one goal for me is to stay healthy. If I stay healthy and I'm able to be out there everyday and get my at-bats, I'm going to produce. I'm comfortable and capable of doing that. So I think for me staying healthy is the biggest key. But I'll save my goals for the end of the year.

SHANKS: But you know fans wonder if you can hit 20 home runs or 25 home runs. Do you think you can be that type of productive hitter?

DEROSA: I definitely do. My swing has only gotten better over the course of being up here. I think I'm definitely capable of popping twenty balls out of the ballpark. I'm not putting a number on that. I think the intangibles are what I bring to the table: the good base running, picking up the signs, moving players over, and doing the little stuff like that that I think this team is going to need to do in order to be successful.

SHANKS: How do you think Adam LaRoche is going to do as our starting first baseman?

DEROSA: Adam's a major leaguer. From day one last year everyone knew he was going to make it this year. You know he handles himself like a professional right out of the gate. He's just fit in so well. I mean his talent speaks for himself. He can flat out hit and he can flat out play defense and that's what you've got to do in the big leagues. So I think he's going to be a major player in the run for rookie of the year and help us win a lot of ballgames.

SHANKS: How does it feel to have a total homegrown infield?

DEROSA: I was actually thinking about that a couple of times. There are a lot of us - Chipper and Andruw as well. There's only a few of us who have not come up through the system. It's a good feeling. It speaks volumes for the scouts that the Braves have in the organization and the trust they have in their farm system.

Bill Shanks hosts "The Braves Show." He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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