In addition to recalling Alex Hassan from Pawtucket yesterday, the Red Sox announced that Rubby De La Rosa would start today’s tilt agains the Tampa Bay Rays. Though De La Rosa was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers almost two years ago in the Nick Punto trade, this will be his first start for the Red Sox, begging the question of what to expect from the hard-throwing 25-year old.
The first thing to watch for is right there; De La Rosa throws hard. His heater is what made him such an attractive prospect in his days in the Dodgers’ organization, as he routinely sits in the mid-90’s and has touched 100 mph. However, with that flaming fastball come concerns over both his secondary pitches and his control.
As far as his control goes, the outlook isn’t great. While De La Rosa has made definite improvements from last season, when he posted a 5.4 BB/9 rate, his 3.9 BB/9 is still far from ideal. However, a slight uptick in strikeouts (8.5 K/9 to 8.8 K/9) makes his K/BB ratio of 2.26 look a whole lot better than last year’s 1.58 edition. In his first 10 starts in Pawtucket, that improved control has led to better results, as he has posted a 3.04 ERA (his ERA last season was 4.26) and generally been more successful than a year ago.
While all ten of De La Rosa’s appearances this season have been starts and he is starting today, there are issues that could limit him to the bullpen in the future. Those control problems coupled with his inability to develop a consistent secondary offering, though his change shows potential, certainly cloud his future as a starter.
However, today is De La Rosa’s first chance to change the future. In the Red Sox’ current five-game winning streak, both the bats and defense have looked considerably better than in the previous ten games, so De La Rosa will have every chance to win if he pitches well. He’ll be looking to limit those walks in his first MLB start since 2011 and, if he succeeds, could be able to keep a weak Rays lineup off balance with his raw stuff. Who knows, if he pitches well today, then perhaps he can play himself into the Red Sox’ future plans in the rotation.