Rubby De La Rosa‘s first full season in the Boston Red Sox organization left much to be desired. The 24-year-old is entering the 2014 campaign under new circumstances, though, and his optimism is apparent.
De La Rosa, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the August 2012 megadeal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to Los Angeles, told reporters at Saturday’s annual New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser that the 2012 trade and his past elbow problems are well behind him. The hard-throwing pitching prospect made it clear that he’s fully healthy and ready to take a step forward in 2014.
“Finally, I feel like 100 percent good, mentally, physically. It’s exciting for me. I can’t wait for the season to start,” De La Rosa told reporters. “I’m not worried right now about [the challenges of 2013]. I’m only worried about my body and what I can do to get better, like I’m feeling right now. It’s not easy to go to a team and get traded. That was different.”
The Red Sox gained a whole bunch of financial flexibility from their 2012 trade with the Dodgers, but Boston also acquired a pair of intriguing pitching prospects in De La Rosa and Allen Webster. Both hurlers saw major league action in 2013 but spent much of their time at Triple-A Pawtucket. De La Rosa went 3-3 with a 4.26 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 24 appearances (20 starts) with the PawSox.
Control was De La Rosa’s biggest issue last season, as he issued 5.4 walks per nine innings with Pawtucket. The struggles could be attributed to a number of factors, including a new environment and the unique circumstance of De La Rosa working up his pitch count in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Such factors shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.
“Last year, I didn’t have that feeling,” De La Rosa said. “You can’t do it when you’re not 100 percent, but now I can do it. I feel like [I’m] more comfortable. I feel, like, super healthy.”
Another advantage that De La Rosa has this season is another year of working with Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez on his resume. De La Rosa has known Martinez since he and his brother were little — they’re actually related — and Martinez previously made clear his high expectations for the young Dominican right-hander.
“I wanted to train and start working with Pedro — all in the offseason,” De La Rosa said. “We’re working on everything a lot. It’s an opportunity I can’t explain.”
De La Rosa, whose fastball can touch the upper 90s, made 11 appearances with the Red Sox last season, posting a 5.56 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, six strikeouts and two walks in 11 1/3 innings. All 11 appearances came in relief, and De La Rosa, who also tasted the majors with the Dodgers in 2011 and 2012, could be headed down a similar path this season given the Red Sox’ starting pitching depth.
“I hope I get a chance. But it’s not my decision. I have to do whatever the team wants,” De La Rosa said. “If they need me in the bullpen or as a starter, I’m fine with that. So, in my opinion, I [would] like to be a starter. But if they need me in the bullpen, I’ll go to the bullpen and be happy.”
The Red Sox will be happy if De La Rosa continues to progress and makes an impact in 2014 — regardless of his role. The ceiling certainly is high, and De La Rosa is in a much better position to reach that ceiling now than he was last winter.