MOOSIC, Pa. – It appears the Red Sox are electing to take a cautious approach with pitcher Rubby De La Rosa.
The fifth member of Pawtucket’s starting rotation will make his first start of the season at Lehigh Valley on Monday night. Unlike the team’s other four starters, all of whom have thrown around 85 pitches, De La Rosa will be limited to about 50 pitches. Graham Godfrey, who tossed two innings in Thursday’s season opener, is expected to serve as backup.
“Just taking it easy on him,” said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur about De La Rosa. “No rush.”
The reason the organization is adhering to a different program with the 24-year-old De La Rosa probably dates back to when the hard thrower underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011. De La Rosa spent most of last season on the road to recovery – he threw 13 2/3 innings with none coming after the Red Sox acquired him as part of the mega deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In Grapefruit League action this spring, De La Rosa tossed 6 2/3 innings in four games, all of which came in relief. While in the Dodgers’ farm system, De La Rosa started 39 of the 59 games he appeared in.
If De La Rosa reaches Boston this year, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll do so as a reliever. But given that he’s presently a member of Pawtucket’s rotation, for now he’ll be every chance to see whether he’s better suited to start as opposed to serving as a late-game option.
“I’m excited to see the fastball and the slider … he’s got a tremendous slider,” said PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina. “It’s tough to make evaluations in spring training, but you can see the stuff. I was standing next to (Red Sox manager) John Farrell one day when Rubby was pitching. He sees the stuff, too.
“(Farrell) basically said, ‘Don’t mess him up,’” kidded a smiling DiSarcina. “Any time you have a young power arm (in Triple A), it’s exciting to see how they compete against seasoned hitters who have competed in the big leagues.”
To the best of his knowledge, DiSarcina doesn’t know when David Ortiz will officially begin his rehabilitation assignment with the PawSox. The Red Sox slugger is in line to participate in an extended spring training game Monday.
If Ortiz does begin to rehab with Pawtucket on Thursday, he will certainly add flavor to the on-field ceremony that will pay tribute to the 2012 Governors’ Cup winners along with the traditional pomp and circumstance that surround the first game of the year at McCoy Stadium. Recovering from a right Achilles' tendon injury, Ortiz has stated publicly that he would feel most comfortable with 25-30 Triple-A at-bats under his belt before rejoining the parent club.
For now, the PawSox are taking a wait-and-see approach before firmly entrenching someone in the closer’s role. With the starting pitchers limited in terms of pitch count, DiSarcina’s immediate concern is making sure he doesn’t tax his bullpen too much in the season’s infancy.
With Pawtucket’s bullpen having totaled 15 innings in the first three games, it didn’t register as a complete shock that the ball club added a pitcher for Sunday’s series finale against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Joining the team was 30-year-old Ryan Rowland-Smith, who had been working out in Fort Myers. Since he’s the only lefthander among the PawSox’ relief corps, there’s a pretty good chance of him sticking around.
DiSarcina wasted little time putting his new import to work as Sunday saw Rowland-Smith throw 35 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.
“You definitely don’t want to lean too heavily on the bullpen,” cautioned DiSarcina. “The majority of our starters are built up to 80 pitches. When they get around 60 or 70 pitches, you start to get concerned, especially when it’s the third or fourth inning.”
Drew Sutton didn’t mince words when asked about his second tour of duty with the Red Sox organization. The infielder played in 76 games between Pawtucket and Boston in 2011. Familiarity with how the operation is run wasn’t the underlying reason why the 29-year-old signed a minor-league deal last offseason.
“They offered the most money,” stated Sutton, now in his 10th professional season. “When you’re an up-and-down guy and there’s not really an offer to make the team out of spring training, then you want to do the best you can to provide for your family. It comes down to making as money as possible.”
Sutton cited that he began last season with Atlanta yet he ended up appearing in games with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
“You can’t pick a situation based on what you hope is going to happen because you can’t really predict,” he added. “You just try to set yourself up with the best possible deal and best scenario where you feel the most comfortable. You can’t really plan on anything in this game and I’ve learned that over the past five or six years in my career.”
Slotted in the heart of Pawtucket’s lineup, Sutton is now hitting .125 after going hitless in four at-bats Sunday.
EXTRA BASES: In order to make room for Rowland-Smith, the PawSox placed outfielder Alex Hassan on the seven-day disabled list with a strained calm. The move is retroactive to last Thursday. … DiSarcina said that infielder Brock Holt was available on an emergency basis Sunday, three days after fouling a ball off his foot. Barring setbacks, Holt should return to duty Monday night. … Think it’s been awhile since the PawSox last swept a four-game series on the road? You only have to go back to last August 27-30 in Gwinnett. … Following Pawtucket’s three-game set in Lehigh Valley, the team returns home Thursday to begin an eight-game home stand. The first four games are against Rochester with the second four coming against the aforementioned IronPigs.