ATLANTA -- First baseman Rico Brogna, apparently unhappy with hisdiminished playing time with the arrival of Ken Caminiti, hasreportedly told relatives he plans to retire following the season.
In a story in Thursday's hometown Watertown (Conn.) Town Times,Brogna was quoted as saying he will become the head coach of theKennedy High School football team for the 2002 season. Brogna is a 1988graduate of Watertown High School, where he was an All-American infootball and baseball.
"This is a celebration," Brogna told the Waterbury (Conn.)Republican-American following Thursday's game. "It is not a bittermoment at all. When you decide to put your heart and soul intosomething despite a lot of difficulty, it takes a lot of courage. Whenyou do that and realize you have maxed out, it is a feeling ofcelebration, of sorts."
But when reporters approached him in the home clubhouse Fridayafternoon, the defensive first baseman sounded very defensive.
"It's irrelevant," Brogna said. "It's my business. What I chooseto do after the season is my business. It has no effect on what I'mdoing tonight. I prefer not to talk about it. I'm going through alittle rough period."
Brogna, who is batting .245 with three home runs and 21 RBI thisseason, suffers from ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis),which has taken a toll on his back. While the effects of the diseasehaven't limited him physically this season, his unproductive bat forcedthe club to search for an alternative. Wes Helms shared first baseduring the first half, then Caminiti was signed just before theAll-Star break.
Apparently, Brogna has been discussing retirement with his wife,Melissa, for months, but when Caminiti arrived, he made a decision.
"Retiring will be great for him because it will be a new start,"Melissa Brogna said. "We are closing one great chapter in our livesand starting another. It has been wonderful. We loved every singleminute." ...
While Brogna's career is winding down, Mark DeRosa's star isrising. The rookie shortstop is receiving rave reviews for hisoutstanding play since Rafael Furcal suffered a season-ending shoulderinjury, and general manager John Schuerholz said Friday he has no plansto acquire a veteran shortstop in case DeRosa falters.
"His time is now and he's making the most of it," All-Star thirdbaseman Chipper Jones said. "You've got to give him a shot, he's paidhis dues."
DeRosa credits playing winter ball in Venezuela with preparing himto become the club's regular shortstop. The Phillies' Bobby Abreu was ateammate, along with the Astros' Roger Cedeno, Expos pitcher UguethUrbina, and Phillies pitcher Omar Daal.
"It's funny how things click," DeRosa said. "There comes amoment in every ballplayer's career when things are going well and youtake a step back and say, hey, I'm capable of contributing at the bigleague level."
First base coach Glenn Hubbard remembers seeing DeRosa for thefirst time in the Instructional League five years ago. He was already apolished shortstop, having played three years at Penn, but Hubbard hasseen his confidence grow as he got closer to the major leagues.
"He made a comment to me this spring that he felt at ease,"Hubbard said. "Sometimes it takes guys a little while."
DeRosa is a classic example of a player who doesn't put up bignumbers in the minors, but works hard at honing his skills andmaximizes his ability.
"The mark of a good ballplayer is somebody who gets better everyyear through his minor league career," DeRosa said. "I think I'vedone that."
Schuerholz said Friday he's continuing talking with other teams,but finding another shortstop as DeRosa's backup is not a priority. "We're not two-deep at every position," he said. "Nobody isnowadays."
Schuerholz indicated that if DeRosa was hurt, there are twoalternatives. One is shifting third baseman Chipper Jones to shortstopand installing Caminiti as the third baseman. The other is promotingClass AA Greenville shortstop Wilson Betemit. ...
Bernard Gilkey (strained left quadriceps) is eligible to beactivated from the disabled list today, but he's not ready to play yet.He tested his leg by running the bases Friday afternoon, and indicatedit remains sore.
"I still felt it a little bit," he said. "I think it's going tobe sore for awhile."