FORT MYERS, Fla. — Pitcher Rubby De La Rosa finds it hard to believe he’s been with the Boston Red Sox for less than two years.
De La Rosa, who was traded to the Red Sox in the August 2012 blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers, said Thursday he’s feeling right at home in the Boston organization as he progresses through his second major league camp with the club.
“I’m feeling super comfortable,” De La Rosa said. “I feel like I’ve been here for all my life. There are a lot of good guys here. That’s a good thing, you know?”
De La Rosa still is working out some kinks at Red Sox camp, as the right-hander has allowed five earned runs on nine hits over four innings in two spring training appearances. But the 25-year-old said Thursday he already notices plenty of differences — particularly health-wise — in his game this spring, especially now that his Tommy John surgery is a distant memory.
“I changed a lot of stuff, personally,” De La Rosa said when assessing the last year. “I feel free (and) more comfortable.”
De La Rosa, who signed with the Dodgers as an international free agent in 2007, ascended through the Los Angeles organization to the point where he was ranked the No. 90 prospect in baseball by Baseball America before the 2011 season. The hard-throwing righty was viewed as an important piece of the Dodgers’ future — whether in a starting role or a relief role — so the pitcher was thrown off a bit upon hearing he had been traded to the Red Sox in 2012.
“I was like, ‘That’s mean, man,’” De La Rosa joked. “That surprised me when they traded me, for like that moment. But after that, like two months later, I said, ‘OK, you know what? I have (to move on). I have no choice.’
“That’s business,” he added. “It was like I started again (with Boston).”
De La Rosa was inconsistent in 2013, though the results might have been due to the strict pitch counts the Red Sox implemented in his first full season after Tommy John surgery. Now, De La Rosa is healthy and eyeing a major step forward in 2014, perhaps with the help of former Red Sox ace and longtime family friend Pedro Martinez.
“He’s a good teacher,” De La Rosa said of Martinez, now a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. “I like how he teaches me (the proper way) to throw in the bullpen and mechanical (stuff). We worked on everything last year, so I’m getting better.”
De La Rosa is unsure what his role will be in 2014, as he has experience as a starter and a reliever. His preference is to start, but the pitcher stated his real goal is to continue the progress he has made in a short time in Boston.