De La Rosa working to get on track for Red Sox

982627.jpg

De La Rosa working to get on track for Red Sox

When the Red Sox pulled off their massive swap with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August, in addition to salary relief, they got five players in return.

Two -- Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus Jr. -- have already been traded again. A third, free agent first baseman James Loney, has signed elsewhere.

That leaves the Sox with two young pitchers, Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, from the deal. As highly valued as Webster is, De La Rosa is the one with the highest ceiling.

First, however, the Sox need to be convinced that De La Rosa, who underwent Tommy John surgery in August of 2011, is fully healthy.

De La Rosa, 23, made a handful of rehab appearances last summer and appeared in one game for the Dodgers before the deal. With the start of spring training less than a month away, he believes he's just about ready to compete.

The last hurdle is more mental than physical.

"I'm still working my way back,'' said De La Rosa last week after taking part in the team's Rookie Development Program in Boston. "You have to be sure you're (completely recovered). You don't want to get back to the game and (worry), 'Am I hurt?' I don't want to be afraid of pitching.''

Though he's been on a long-toss throwing program all winter, he's yet to be cleared to throw off a mound.

"He looks good," reported Ben Crockett, the Red Sox' director of player development. "He's definitely been ready with his throwing program. You can tell he's been working hard on the arm strength. He told us he's been throwing for quite a while, and it shows -- (he's shown a) really quick arm, the ball is jumping out. He's aggressive and confident with that throwing program. He's mixing in some of his off-speed pitches, and he looks like he's ready to compete."

In the long-term, De La Rosa -- with a mid-90s fastball, a changeup, curve and slider -- has the stuff to project as a starter. But for the time being, all the spots in the Red Sox' rotation are spoken for. That leaves De La Rosa either ticketed for Pawtucket, where he can get more innings and develop arm strength, or the Boston bullpen, where he could have a quicker impact.

"My goal,'' said De La Rosa, "is to be a starter. Always in my career, I've been a starter. That's my dream, to be a starter. I'll take any position or opening -- closer, relief, starter, I'm going to take it.''

De La Rosa is eager for the season to begin, since he didn't like the way the last one ended.

He wasn't upset at being traded ("OK, Boston needed me more than these guys"), but because he had yet to clear waivers, he couldn't officially be dealt until after the season.

That meant he spent the last few weeks of the 2012 season in baseball limbo, as the Dodgers, honoring the Red Sox' request, kept him out of action until the deal could be officially consummated.

"For me, I was off for two weeks,'' recounted De La Rosa. "I didn't do nothing except run, conditioning, and work out. Not pitching was sad for me. I wanted to go home. I called my agent. It was a bad experience for me.''

In a perfect world, De La Rosa would follow the same career path as another Dodgers pitching prospect from the Dominican, Pedro Martinez. The two have been compared some, because of their similar backgrounds and build.

"I know Pedro,'' said a smiling De La Rosa. "I know that family. Igrew up with them.''

Indeed, De La Rosa revealed that his grandmother worked as a nanny for Ramon and Pedro Martinez. Ramon, who also pitched for the Red Sox, works for the Dodgers and helped out De La Rosa in the minors while Pedro taught him how to throw his changeup, which was one of the best in the history of the game.

"I don't like to watch baseball,'' said De La Rosa. "But anytime Pedro pitched, I watched that game. All the time, all the time. I had to watch whatever he did. I wanted to be like him.''

Over the winter, there was talk that Pedro Martinez might soon rejoin the Red Sox organization as a part-time instructor or consultant, a move that De LaRosa would heartily endorse.

"I would feel safe,'' he said of Martinez's presence. "He'd be somebody to teach me more about baseball.''

For the time being, the Red Sox are focused on getting De La Rosa back on track.

"Obviously," said Crockett, "he's had some success at the major league level and has plenty of stuff to pitch up there. I think we just need to see a little bit more of him this spring training to make that judgment."

Dee Gordon homers leading off as Marlins mourn Jose Fernandez

marlins_dee_gordon_092616.jpg

Dee Gordon homers leading off as Marlins mourn Jose Fernandez

MIAMI - Dee Gordon hit an emotional homer in Miami's first at-bat following the death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident.

Leading off the first inning Monday night against the New York Mets, Gordon pulled a 2-0 pitch from Bartolo Colon over the wall in right for his first homer of the season.

Gordon circled the bases slowly and was crying when he reached home plate. He tapped his chest and waved toward the sky, and then sobbed as teammates hugged him in the dugout.

Gordon took the first pitch batting right-handed, in tribute to the right-handed Fernandez. Gordon then switched to his normal left side.

Fernandez died Sunday morning, prompting the Marlins to cancel their game that day against Atlanta.