When you have someone labeled as possibly the next Pedro Martinez in your system, you’d think it would behoove you to see what he can do against MLB competition.
Such is the conundrum the Boston Red Sox have on their hands with Rubby De La Rosa, a 23-year-old Dominican-born right-hander acquired last year in the blockbuster trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers. He’s got the electric arm that scouts dream of and was probably the best player the Sox got back in the trade.
He even has MLB experience, having made 10 starts for the Dodgers in 2011 and amassing a 3.71 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 60.2 innings. So why is this hot prospect not a shoo-in for the rotation to start the season?
The concern, as with most young pitchers, is about his injury history. After that successful start to his 2011 campaign, De La Rosa blew out his elbow and had Tommy John Surgery that August. He has never thrown over 110.1 innings in a season at any level. His 5’ 11” build means that his body may be more susceptible to wear and tear.
While these concerns may be justifiable, they certainly should not preclude him from being in the Sox’s plans for this season. Quite simply, the Sox do not have an electric arm quite like De La Rosa’s anywhere in their rotation or the bullpen. He would be a valuable asset in any capacity.
Even though the team shelled out millions for Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara and Joel Hanrahan this offseason, there should be a place for the young right-hander somewhere on the roster. If the Sox are truly serious about building a bridge to the future and getting their young players experience—which they continue to insist they are—then there’s no good reason why someone with De La Rosa’s ability and past success should languish away in Triple-A Pawtucket.
It would be wildly irresponsible of GM Ben Cherington to let a potential future star waste away in the minors when he could be helping his MLB team.
The Sox have assigned a new special assistant—Pedro Martinez—to help mentor De La Rosa, whose mother was once Pedro’s nanny. Pedro has already shown De La Rosa how to throw his befuddling changeup, and his continued input and support should only help the young pitcher develop more confidence over the course of spring training.
It’s not as if the Sox have a great, stable rotation. While Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz figure to be the anchors at the top, the Sox have a number of questions at the bottom. Can Ryan Dempster cut it in the American League? Is John Lackey healthy, and if he is can he contribute meaningfully? Can Felix Doubront put down the cheeseburger long enough to get back on the mound?
These guys are not sure things, and De La Rosa deserves every opportunity to compete with them on a level playing field for a rotation slot. He has too live an arm to not at least win a spot on the MLB roster for opening day.