Lou, DeRosa deny recent report of rift
Skipper has nothing but praise for infielder who was dealt to Tribe
MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella was surprised to hear a Chicago newspaper story suggest he had a problem with Mark DeRosa, who was traded on New Year's Eve to the Indians.
"How can they say that?" Piniella said Thursday. "That I didn't hit it off with him? Was that what he felt?"
The Chicago Sun-Times story said that DeRosa "never seemed to hit it off" with Piniella -- those were the writer's words, not DeRosa's -- and the infielder was asked if he felt the Cubs manager had pushed for his exit.
"I don't know," DeRosa responded. "I really don't. I didn't ask questions once they told me. It was done, it was New Year's, the ball dropped and I had a new mind-set."
On Thursday, Piniella was asked to respond.
"I have nothing but respect for Mark," Piniella said. "He played exceedingly well, I used him all over. I think he had his best season playing for me.
"I don't call players after they're traded," he said. "I don't make a habit of that. I talk to them when I see them the following spring, the following summer. When I leave, nobody calls and says, 'I feel bad you're not managing the team.'"
Told about the story Thursday in the Indians' camp, DeRosa said he was surprised the writer took that angle.
"I don't understand that," DeRosa said. "Whoever wrote that article is wrong. I had a great relationship with Lou. I respect what he did as a player, and I respect what he does as a manager. I enjoyed playing for him. He lit a fire under [me]. That guy [the writer] has it wrong.
"I hope Lou didn't feel I gave that writer any reason to think we didn't have a good relationship, because it couldn't be further from the truth," DeRosa said.
DeRosa had a career year in 2008 with the Cubs, batting .285 with 21 homers and 87 RBIs. He was dealt to the Indians for three Minor League pitchers.
"This was a situation where a move had to be made," said Piniella, who didn't know about the deal until after it happened. "I saw it on the ticker tape when I was skiing in Colorado. There's so much payroll that we can have on a Major League team. A decision was made, we got three young pitchers for him.
"I've never had any problems with him," Piniella said.
DeRosa and Piniella had even made a friendly wager last season that if DeRosa hit 20 homers, he wouldn't have to make any more spring road trips to Tucson. Piniella said he had dinner with Indians bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez, and asked him to tell Cleveland manager Eric Wedge to honor that bet.
DeRosa will be leaving the Indians camp on Sunday to join Team USA, so it's not clear whether the Tucson bet will be honored.
Piniella did not like it when DeRosa said the Cubs faced a "do or die" situation in the National League Division Series, but responded to that comment immediately. That wasn't the make-or-break factor either, Piniella said.
"Are we going to trade somebody because he makes a comment?" Piniella said. "If that's the case, heck, we'd be trading half the team, including me."
Piniella said he always wishes his players well when they go somewhere else and wants to see them do well.
"I care about them," Piniella said. "I think [the writer] saying that -- to me, there was no foundation for it. I'm the nicest guy in the world, for God's sake."
It has been a quiet spring camp for the Cubs. This was the first time Piniella got a little riled up.
"Things have gone too smooth around here," Piniella said. "You've got to have a little controversy."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.