The Boston Red Sox organization is loaded with good, young pitchers. Pitchers like Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes and Rubby De La Rosa, just to name a few.
The best of this group of young pitchers is De La Rosa, the righty from the Dominican Republic. Make no mistake about it.
Those who watched the Red Sox game Saturday, a 2-1 extra innings loss to the Oakland Athletics, saw De La Rosa’s promise on display yet again. The 25-year-old threw seven innings, allowing one run on four hits and one walk to seven strikeouts on 100 pitches. He did a good job mixing pitches, locating well and attacking hitters.
It was the second-straight impressive outing for De La Rosa, who has allowed just two runs over his last 18 2-3 innings. But contrary to Monday — when he threw seven shutout innings against a weak Minnesota Twins lineup — De La Rosa dominated the top-ranked offense in baseball in Oakland. A litmus test he passed with flying colors.
There’s a very good chance that De La Rosa could find himself at Pawtucket in a few days, with Clay Buchholz expected to return during the Sox’s three-game series in Seattle this week. With just five rotation slots, someone has to go. De La Rosa will probably be the one who gets stiffed.
But while De La Rosa’s immediate future in the Sox rotation might be uncertain, there’s one thing that’s for sure — he is the future ace of the Boston staff.
The stuff is dazzling. De La Rosa currently has two swing-and-miss pitches in his repertoire, with a fastball that tops out in the upper 90s and a change-up that is consistently upper 80s and reaches 90 mph at times. He also possesses a slider that needs work.
The biggest thing we’ve seen from De La Rosa through these five starts, in which he is 2-2 with a 2.51 ERA, has been progress. From when he dominated the Tampa Bay Rays on May 31 to last Saturday — just three short weeks — we’ve seen a much different pitcher. He’s learned to mix better, not relying on his change-up as much. His command has improved. He looks like a more polished pitcher.
Granted, there’s still more work to be done. De La Rosa needs to improve his command. He struggles to repeat his delivery at times. Most of all, he needs his slider to develop into a reliable secondary pitch. It’s not enough to just have a plus-fastball and one strong secondary pitch.
So he’s far from a finished product. But he’s come a long way from when the Red Sox picked him up in the 2012 trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto out west. Much of that has been attributed to his work with former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez, namely with the development of De La Rosa’s change-up.
A stint in the minors isn’t the worst thing for De La Rosa. He still needs more seasoning and must work out a few kinks.
But once he’s a future product — which should be sooner rather than later — this kid will be something special.