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Rubby De La Rosa explains why he expects this year to be different

01.11.14 at 3:18 pm ET
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In terms of pure stuff, few pitchers in the Red Sox organization can match the arsenal of Rubby De La Rosa. The 24-year-old can sit in the mid-90s and touch the high-90s with his fastball. He has the ability to generate swings and misses with both a tremendous changeup and slider. His arm is a rarity.

But his performance in 2013, his first year with the Red Sox after coming over from the Dodgers in the August 2012 blockbuster, did not match his pitch mix. He went 3-3 with a 4.26 ERA, 8.5 strikeouts and a jarring 5.4 walks per nine innings while working on limited pitch counts in Triple-A Pawtucket. In 11 big league games (all as a reliever), he allowed seven runs in 11 1/3 innings with six strikeouts and just two walks — but three hit batters.

Yet, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s possible to bracket the 2013 season as one that presented De La Rosa — who showed tremendous promise while forging a 3.71 ERA with a strikeout per inning in 60 2/3 innings with the Dodgers in his 2011 big league debut — with unique challenges that will not recur. The right-hander’s physical status was something of a work-in-progress in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. He was dealing with the transition to a new organization, along with the frustrations created by a limited pitch count.

That doesn’t excuse all of his 2013 performance, where he appeared distracted at times while on the mound, but it would seem necessary to offer context for some of his struggles.

Some of those limitations that he faced in 2013, De La Rosa insisted at the New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser in support of the Jimmy Fund, are behind the right-hander.

“Finally I feel like 100 percent good, mentally, physically. It’€™s exciting for me. I can’€™t wait for the season to start,” said De La Rosa. “I’€™m not worried right now about [the challenges of 2013]. I’€™m only worried about my body and what I can do to get better, like I’€™m feeling right now. It’€™s not easy to go a team and get traded. That was different.”

So, too, was the level of confidence with which De La Rosa pitched last year. He suggested that he didn’t feel in 2013 like the same pitcher who showed such promise for Los Angeles in 2011.

“Last year I didn’€™t have that feeling,” he said. “You can’€™t do it when you’€™re not 100 percent now I can do it. I feel like more comfortable. I feel like super healthy.”

De La Rosa has been able to follow a different offseason course this winter. After the team emphasized a need for him to improve his conditioning this offseason, the right-hander said that he has been working out with Red Sox legend and special assistant to the GM Pedro Martinez all winter in hopes of positioning himself to make an impact on the 2014 big league team, whether as a starter or reliever. De La Rosa expressed a preference to start, but suggested that more than anything, he’s simply trying to take a step forward to establish himself as a big leaguer.

“If they need me in the bullpen or as a starter, I’€™m fine with that,” said De La Rosa. “In my opinion, I like to be a starter. But if they need me in the bullpen, I’€™ll go to the bullpen and be happy.’€

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