Feb 17, 2013; Fort Myers FL, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Rubby De La Rosa (62) poses during photo day at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy John Twins De La Rosa and Lackey Pivotal To Sox Success

Boston’s bookend Tommy John pitchers, John Lackey and Rubby De La Rosa are both coming off Tommy John surgery, each with something different to prove. Lackey needs to show Boston fans and himself that he’s still that tough as nails gamer that you want to have the ball in important situations. The 22-year old De La Rosa wants to prove he’s got the right stuff to earn a long stay in Boston.

July 15, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey (41) in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We know the Readers Digest condensed story on Lackey; five-year $85 million contract – dud. It’s the truth. No matter how you try to sugar coat it – Lackey was injured the first two years he pitched for Boston, blah, blah, blah – underperformance is underperformance. The good news is that Lackey showed up at Boston’s 2013 training camp with a new physique. He’s reportedly 20 pounds lighter – now if that weight could magically appear on Clay Buchholz‘ frame as muscle – and a lot more fit. Today will be his first proving ground on the road back. I hope he makes a strong first step back because Boston will need him to be the Lackey of old if they are to compete in the AL Beast.

Lackey takes the mound for the first time since September 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium, a crucial extra inning Sox win as they were desperately trying to unsuccessfully stave off a monumental collapse. That day more than anything Lackey had going on the mound was a low point for the media’s coverage of him. A reporter somehow got Lackey’s cell phone number and a half hour before the game texted him asking if the reports that he was divorcing his wife who had cancer were true. Ah, if only this were olden times and the perpetrator could have stoned to death by his colleagues.

Lackey clearly appears to be a man on a mission nearly 18 months removed from surgery. He has stated flat out that he wants to show Boston fans the real John Lackey. I never though this would be an underdog story but I’m feeling that way and pulling for him starting today.

Rubby De La Rosa’s Tommy John recovery and road to Boston has been decidedly less bumpy but nevertheless carries with it the weight of expectation, as much by De La Rosa as Red Sox management and fans. De La Rosa was one the of the pitchers, along with Allen Webster, that came to Boston in last year’s blockbuster trade that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers.

De La Rosa has received a lot of attention from Sox special assistant Pedro Martinez this spring and manager John Farrell likes what he sees so far.

“He’s been impressive, not just in terms of the sheer stuff, but his ability to manipulate the baseball,” Farrell told MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “He’s got a good feel for his changeup, he can throw his breaking ball for strikes. But we’re dealing with a set of circumstances that are different than John’s coming off Tommy John. We’ll be a little bit more slow-paced with Rubby, but he’s been impressive early on. We’ll keep him to those two-inning stints throughout camp.”

If De La Rosa is healthy and his stuff is as good as Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves believe it to be, he could become an integral part of what I believe will be Boston 2013 interchangeable parts pitching toolbox.

Double shot of my baby’s love, yeah yeah, yeah 
Double shot of my baby’s love, yeah yeah, yeah
-  Double Shot of My Baby’s Love, The Swinging Medallions

Tags: Boston Red Sox John Lackey Rubby De La Rosa

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