De La Rosa Becoming Solid Piece for Red Sox

The Red Sox’ unfortunate position in the standings has afforded the team to get a look at their young, homegrown players in an effort to get a read on who can help the team aim to contend in 2015. The team got another good look in their 2-0 sweep-clinching loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, when Rubby De La Rosa turned in one of his strongest starts of the season. While De La Rosa’s initial line (6.2 innings, 8 hits, 2 earned runs, three walks and eight strikeouts) might not be terribly inspiring, most of the damage against him was done in the first two innings. This included a bases-loaded jam that De La Rosa was able to escape without harm and settle in to stifle the Angels offense into the seventh inning. Since his promotion earlier in the season, De La Rosa has made a strong case for himself to be in the Red Sox starting rotation at the beginning of the 2015 season.

De La Rosa is finally starting to show why he was such a highly thought-of prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. De La Rosa spent the offseason working with former Red Sox ace Pedro Martinezon his craft, and all of his hard work has paid off to this point in 2014. De La Rosa has put up 6.69 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, with a .272 average against, 79.7% strand rate, 3.69 ERA and 4.02 xFIP in 78 innings with the big club. The strikeout numbers are down slightly from his career average (career 7.41 K/9), but otherwise that is a solid line across the board, especially for a rookie starter in the American League. Those numbers are right in line with a solid number three starter on a contending rotation.

Another encouraging sign from De La Rosa’s most recent start against the Angels (which Pedro likely had a part in developing) was his ability to make adjustments throughout the start. There was a bit of a rough patch early in the game where the Angels got some good scoring chances, but De La Rosa was able to make the adjustment and settle in through the rest of his start. He made another key adjustment in the seventh, despite not finishing the inning. While dealing with another Angels scoring threat, De La Rosa was able to ramp his fastball up to 97 mph in order to get a key strikeout and limit the threat. This ability to adapt is key to developing into a solid major league starter.

The Red Sox have wisely chosen to use the remainder of the 2014 season to evaluate their roster options for 2015, when the team plans on being competitive. To this point, De La Rosa has taken advantage of the opportunity to show the team he deserves a permanent rotation spot going forward. He has shown the plus stuff, as well as the ability to adjust mid-way through a start. These are things that prove that De La Rosa possesses the ability to improve upon his current numbers, which would be a welcome addition to an unproven pitching staff. Not much is clear for the Red Sox’ 2015 season, but it is clear that Rubby De La Rosa deserves to be in the starting rotation.

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Joe Kelly Makes Solid Red Sox Debut, Red Sox Defeat Cardinals 2-1

There was much anticipation before Joe Kelly’s debut with the Red Sox in St. Louis, in that he was facing both his former team and one of his best friends. St. Louis’s starter, Shelby Miller, was Kelly’s best man at his wedding and the two are reportedly very close, adding an interesting wrinkle to the second of three contests between last October’s World Series opponents. Kelly also received several standing ovations from the grateful crowd at Busch Stadium. Brandon Workman will oppose Adam Wainwright in St. Louis tonight to decide the winner of the three game series. Some more notes from last night’s 2-1 Red Sox win:

  • Joe Kelly made a solid start against his former team. Kelly’s final line on the night came out to 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 2 K, while throwing 53 of 97 pitches for strikes. Kelly seemed to struggle with his command early on, as evidenced by the four walks, but he seemed to settle in as the game went on. Those command issues could certainly be reasonably explained by some jitters against facing his old team in their ballpark for the first time. The two strikeouts were also a bit low, especially since Kelly shows plus stuff most times, but he is not a pitcher that lives and dies with the strikeout. Kelly has a career K/9 mark of just 5.97, but his career 52.2% groundball rate (56.6% this season) suggests that he can still be effective without missing many bats, as evidenced by his start last night.
  • Xander Bogaerts had himself a pretty good night on both sides of the ball. Bogaerts made a nice diving play to help get Kelly out of a first-and-third jam and end the second inning, showing much greater comfort and skill at shortstop than he had at third base. Since the trade of Stephen Drew to the Yankees, Bogaerts has been much better defensively, which in turn has seemed to give him a much-needed confidence boost. Bogaerts also drove in both of the Red Sox’ runs in the game; the first on a two-out double to score Daniel Nava in the fourth inning, then he lifted a sacrifice fly to score Yoenis Cespedes and give the Red Sox the lead in the top of the ninth. A surge by Bogaerts would be a huge boost to the Red Sox lineup, as well as set him up for a breakout season in 2015.
  • Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup, David Ortiz still left his mark on the game when he pinch-hit for Nava with runners at second and third and no outs in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals elected to intentionally walk Ortiz (who was promptly pinch-run for by Jackie Bradley Jr.) and pitch to Bogaerts instead. Looks like they learned their lesson last October about pitching to David Ortiz with runners in scoring position.
  • The Red Sox bullpen was excellent in support of Kelly’s strong start. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined for two shutout innings in relief, with Uehara recording his 23rd save in the process.