De La Rosa working to get on track for Red Sox

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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."

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.