Yesterday, the Red Sox got the news that Andrew Miller will receive season-ending surgery on his left foot. This has forced their management to go into overdrive in search of relievers that could fill Miller’s role. However, even though he is not a lefty, the best relief option may be within the Red Sox organization where the Red Sox would not have to give up any prospects. That pitcher is Rubby De La Rosa, a starter by trade that could be used as a long-man out of the bullpen and take some of the workload off other relievers.
De La Rosa was terrible in his last start for Pawtucket, allowing 6 earned runs in just .1 innings. However, before that start he had been completely dominant, posting a 1.04 ERA in five June starts. On the season, De La Rosa has proven himself worthy of a promotion, as he has a 3.38 ERA, .206 batting average against, and 62:27 K:BB ratio in 58.2 innings pitched. That ERA was even lower at 2.47 before his shelling on Sunday, and De La Rosa has really pitched himself to a promotion.
SoxProspects says this about De La Rosa:
Well filled-out right-hander, especially in lower half. Has been physically developing over the last couple of years. Fastball sits 94-97 mph, with sharp downward movement and explosiveness. Can top out at 98-100 mph when reaches back. Heater shows ability to miss bats. Fringe-average command. Tends to get long with delivery and has trouble keeping arm in slot. Will need to refine delivery to enhance command. 84-87 mph changeup grades as plus-to-better. Strong depth and deep fade. Shows separation and deception between fastball. Can miss bats or produce weak contact. Also throws a fringe-average mid-to-high-80s slider. Flashes plus at times, but inconsistent staying on top of pitch. Tends to wrap wrist. Potential to round into a swing-and-miss offering. Ceiling of a number three starter on first-division team. Becoming more consistent with slider and refining fastball command are keys to reaching ceiling as a starter. Late-inning reliever projection without any improvement. Had Tommy John Surgery in August 2011.
De La Rosa has been called up to the majors once this year to serve out of the bullpen, but he was only with the team for a few days and never pitched. Before he had Tommy John surgery and was traded to Boston, however, he was proving himself as one of the best young pitchers in baseball. In 13 games (10 starts) with the Dodgers in 2011, he posted a 3.71 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 60.2 innings pitched.
With De La Rosa’s stuff alone, he could be post numbers similar to that, but he is also more polished. He has walked 4.14 per nine innings. That is not good by any means, but it is better than the 4.60 he posted in the majors in 2011 as well as the 4.28 mark he posted in Double-A that year. While it’s unrealistic to expect De La Rosa to post Miller’s 14.09 K/9 mark, he could fill a similar role as a dominant, albeit right-handed strikeout reliever.
There is relatively little doubt that De La Rosa could handle himself in the majors better than either Alex Wilson (4.88 ERA, 27.2 innings pitched) or Jose De La Torre (7.71 ERA, 7 innings pitched) in the bullpen. He could also likely handle himself better than Allen Webster (7.88 ERA, 24 innings pitched), but acclimating Webster to the rotation is a smart move that will likely continue. It’s always exciting to see dominant young pitchers like Webster, and however long the Red Sox wait before trading for a reliever, De La Rosa should be in that rotation as well.