PAWTUCKET – Rubby De La Rosa has turned the corner with his pitching lately. As a result, the team’s harness on the young prospect is getting loosened.
After being subjected to a stringent pitch count during the first month of the season, the hard-throwing phenom is expected to throw in the neighborhood of 70-75 when he takes the mound for Pawtucket Monday night in Gwinnett. De La Rosa has been limited to around 50 pitches in his previous five starts, none of which have seen him toss more than three innings.
His season-high in pitches took place April 23 when he threw 56 against Buffalo. The 24-year-old has worked a grand total of 12 2/3 innings thus far. He’s struck out 13 with eight walks while holding International League foes to a .229 batting average.
Part of the reason the Red Sox believe it’s time to ratchet up De La Rosa’s workload is his last two outings – in them he’s combined to toss six straight scoreless frames. Last Tuesday’s three-inning stint against Columbus was easily his most efficient outing to date, one that featured five strikeouts and zero walks.
PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina feels the time has come for De La Rosa to pitch deep enough into a contest that he has a chance to qualify for the victory.
“Ultimately you want to protect his arm because of the surgery he had,” said DiSarcina, referencing the Tommy John procedure De La Rosa underwent in August 2011. “Rubby’s going to tell us when it’s time to stretch him out and he’s been telling us with his performance over the last outing or two. Sooner or later, you’ve got to release the reins.”
For the most part, De La Rosa has been fine with being treated with kid gloves. Now he’s looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish knowing that he’s no longer on a short leash.
“I’m happy with the way things have been going. (Being on a pitch count) shows that the team worries about me,” said De La Rosa. “Hopefully I can just keep going.”
Added DiSarcina: “He’s proven that he’s ready to be stretched out. He’s understood the program and stuck to it.”
It seems the Red Sox are pumping the brakes on Jackie Bradley Jr., who continues to be hindered by bicep tendonitis. The outfielder was not in Pawtucket’s lineup for the second straight day, instead spending part of his Sunday morning huddling with team doctors.
Bradley was asked after the game if he expected to play Monday. “Don’t think so,” was his response.
DiSarcina hinted that Bradley could end up on disabled list. The prospect hasn’t appeared in the field since the first game of Pawtucket’s eight-game home stand. He had back-to-back days off followed by two days in the designated-hitter spot with an off day sandwiched in between.
“The thing is that he swings left-handed and it’s his right arm,” said DiSarcina. “You really can’t give him a break DH’ing and get him to calm that thing down just because he’s constantly doing early work in the cage. It’s one of those things that we have to make a decision to sit him down for seven days and just calm it down and strengthen it. That’s what we’ll find out soon.”
In other injury-related news, outfielder Mitch Maier (quad, wrist) is probably a week away from returning. DiSarcina noted that Maier is expected to run the bases Monday in Gwinnett. He started the season on the disabled list and was hitting .321 in eight games for Pawtucket before landing back on the sidelines on April 25.
In Drew Sutton’s case, the infielder has turned the corner after experiencing a muscle strain in his side.
“I think the pain is going away. The best thing for him is that we were able to catch and identify it quick,” said DiSarcina about Sutton, who was placed on the D.L. last Friday.
Jose Iglesias was not in Sunday’s lineup, though for an entirely different reason. “Manager’s decision,” said DiSarcina, which is the same answer he gave after the shortstop came out of Saturday’s game. Iglesias did take batting practice.
“Iggy’s fine,” said DiSarcina, who added Iglesias was available to come off the bench. “He’s healthy and can play.”
With no Bradley or Iglesias in the starting lineup, DiSarcina was forced to get creative. His response was to pencil in both catchers, Ryan Lavarnway and Dan Butler. Lavarnway was behind the plate while Butler held down the DH duties. It marked the second straight day that both backstops appeared in the same lineup.
“I don’t like to do it a lot; I feel for Lavarnway and Butler,” said DiSarcina. “The last thing you want to do is sit one of them just because it’s not his turn to catch.”
On juggling two catchers who both appear on Boston’s 40-man roster, DiSarcina said he touched base with his dugout predecessor, Arnie Beyeler.
“He said he didn’t (have both in the same lineup) a lot and didn’t want to get in the habit of it,” said DiSarcina. “It’s easy to want to pencil in Lavarnway’s name because he’s such a force, but circumstances dictate. Right now we’re short.”
DiSarcina’s eyes lit up when asked about having Red Sox legend and current player development consultant Dwight Evans around for the past couple of days.
“To have that experience and knowledge … it’s a new set of eyes,” DiSarcina responded. “Dwight was pretty good at what he did and he’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind. If he sees something, he’ll say it and to me too. Keep bringing him around.”