FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rubby De La Rosa, who turns 24 on Monday, has been one of the more impressive pitchers in Red Sox camp. In four scoreless innings, he has allowed one hit without a walk.
The righthander retired six of the seven batters he faced tonight. De La Rosa showed a fastball in the mid 90s with a changeup and a curveball that were too much for the Pittsburgh hitters.
“Three quality pitches for strikes. He just looks very much at home on the mound,” John Farrell said. “Confident. Mound presence is excellent.”
De La Rosa retired Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker on groundballs in the fourth inning. He struck out Brandon Inge looking in the fifth inning before Felix Pie doubled to left. De La Rosa then got Clint Barmes on a foul pop and struck out Lucas May.
“Most impressive thing is the feel for his secondary pitches, particularly his changeup,” Farrell said. “Couple of 3-and-2 counts, righthanded, lefthanded. He’s not only willing but goes to that pitch with confidence. When you combine that with the power, it’s really a rare combination. … He’s not afraid to go to any pitch in any count. It’s very encouraging the way he’s thrown the baseball.”
But don’t get any ideas about De La Rosa being at Yankee Stadium on April 1. Farrell said that De La Rosa “would be in the minor leagues someplace” to start the season and mentioned that could well be Double A Portland.
“The important thing is that he feels great physically,” Farrell said.
De La Rosa threw only 13.2 innings last season after returning from Tommy John surgery. The Sox know how good he is and will protect him this season. De La Rosa will work as a starter and have his innings controlled.
In time De La Rosa could best help the Sox as a late-inning power reliever. But the organization has to give a talented young pitcher like that every chance to succeed as a starter.
Using him in the major league bullpen, while an interesting idea, is not conducive to his development. Beyond that, it’s not like the Red Sox lack for relievers. Could be start in the majors? De La Rosa has the talent, certainly. But the Sox would surely prefer to see that in the summer when the opportunity arises, not in April.
The Sox also want De Le Rosa to work on his conditioning, an important factor for a starter.
“At this point, probably not,” Farrell said when asked whether De La Rosa would make the team.
• Steven Wright looked good for two innings then lost the release point on his knuckleball in the eighth inning when he allowed two runs. He is a work in progress but shows potential.
• Daniel Bard was temporarily bumped out of games to do some work on the side with pitching coach Juan Nieves. He last pitched on Monday.
“We’re just trying to work out his lower half, more stride direction. He had a workday just throwing on a line where there’s some lateral-type drills where were trying to get that stride direction a little more consistent,” Farrell said.
Bard will throw in the bullpen on Saturday and could slot into a game early next week, perhaps on Monday.
• Jon Lester has looked like 2011 Jon Lester this spring. “With each time Jon gets on the mound, whether it’s in side work or in game action, he’s been down in the zone consistently. That was the case again tonight,” Farrell said.
Farrell said that Lester has made a mechanical adjustment that has allowed him to work downhill. The adjustment comes in how he leads with his right leg.
“That’s been able to allow him to work from a high-to-low type of trajectory through the strike zone rather than collapsing on the back side and pushing the ball through the zone,” Farrell said. “That is what has allowed him to throw the ball to the bottom of the zone.”