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Red Sox minor league roundup: Eureka moment for Rubby De La Rosa?; (Pat) Light goes on in Greenville

04.06.14 at 12:00 pm ET
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Finally, this was what the Red Sox had been waiting to see from Rubby De La Rosa. This was total dominance.

The line alone was glimmering: five shutout innings, two hits (a double and single), no walks, five strikeouts, nine groundball outs and just one out in the air. He needed just 70 pitches (43 strikes) to navigate through his outing, the sort of efficiency that has often eluded him. His fastball, according to PawSox play-by-play man Jeff Levering, sat at 93-96 mph all game and consistently down (hence the groundballs), he commanded his slider well and his changeup was a compelling out pitch, the go-to offering for four of his five punchouts.

But his performance went beyond that.

De La Rosa, sometimes prone to lapses of concentration and the appearance of uncertainty on the mound, showed poise and appeared to be in total control throughout the game. Those signs were significant enough, but in this case, the process was significant.

De La Rosa’s transition from the Dodgers to the Red Sox organization last year was not without challenges. He faced sometimes-frustrating workload restrictions in his return from Tommy John surgery, but beyond that, he faced a chorus of new voices to whom he was trying to acclimate in his first year with the Red Sox after being traded over from the Dodgers in 2012. He didn’t always show evidence of processing the messages he was being given.

But on Wednesday, De La Rosa had a bullpen session with Pawtucket bullpen coach Rich Sauveur in which dialogue between the two was implemented in pitch after pitch. De La Rosa again showed the ability to repeatedly translate conversation into his delivery in the bullpen prior to Saturday’s game, and again sustained it during the game. His focus was evident, but so, too, was his ability to receive instruction and implement it — often a key skill in allowing prospects to translate potential into performance. Multiple evaluators viewed his outing as his best — “by far” — since joining the Red Sox organization.

Still, it was one outing. There was never a question that De La Rosa had the ability to have outings such as Saturday’s. The fascination with him going forward will be whether he can back it up with another.

Time will tell. But at the least, De La Rosa — sometimes lost in the Red Sox prospect shuffle — offered a reminder that he has a ceiling that can rival that of virtually any pitcher the Red Sox have, the potential for total dominance on nights where he can harness his considerable talents for pitch after pitch.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

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— Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 3-for-3 with a walk, and in his first three Triple-A games, he’s reached base in seven of 11 plate appearances. Last year, he had seven games with three or more hits and six in which he reached base four or more times. More on him (and the decision to have Brock Holt rather than Cecchini come up to the big leagues with Will Middlebrooks on the DL) shortly.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 LOSS AT READING (PHILLIES)

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— Feats of Mookie: Instigating. One day after leading off a game with a homer, Mookie Betts slammed a double to open Portland’s game. That proved his only hit in a contest where he did negotiate a walk, stole his first base of the season and committed an error. He also struck out to end the game, unable to catch up to a 99 mph fastball from closer Ken Giles. Still, Betts is 8-for-13 with a walk so far.

— Catcher Blake Swihart went 2-for-4 with a double, improving to 5-for-11 with a pair of extra-base hits.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-2 WIN AT MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)

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— Right-hander Luis Diaz, who turns 22 this week, built upon a 2013 second-half in which he featured the best ERA in the minors over the final months of the season by tossing five shutout innings to open 2014. Though he doesn’t have a plus pitch that would create a clear path to the big leagues at this poit, Diaz shows mid-90s velocity and the ability to throw strikes, evident when 40 of his 58 pitches on Saturday were in the strike zone. And if he can build on a 2013 campaign in which he went 9-4 with a 1.96 ERA between Single-A Greenville and Salem (where he pitched for a couple starts at the end of the year), at a certain point, performance could dictate that he is viewed as a prospect.

— Second baseman Reed Gragnani, taken after his senior year at the University of Virginia in the 21st round of last year’s draft, went 4-for-5 after going 2-for-4 in the season opener.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-2 WIN AT KANNAPOLIS (WHITE SOX)

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— When the Red Sox drafted Pat Light in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft, they saw a pitcher with one of the best fastballs in the draft, capable of getting swings and misses and groundballs in volume thanks to the power and leverage created by his 6-foot-7 frame. He never showed that ability in his first full pro season in 2013, having his year derailed by a torn hamstring that left him unable to leverage the finish his delivery and leverage the ball down, which contributed to a 1-4 record and 8.89 ERA (along with 8.9 strikeouts and 4.4 walks per nine innings) in 10 outings spanning just 28 1/3 innings in Greenville. But some Sox officials felt that, with health and the restoration of a mid-90s fastball that he can throw for strikes, he could restore his prospect status in dramatic fashion.

That being the case, his season-opening performance for Greenville on Saturday was noteworthy: Six innings in which he allowed one run on four hits, punched out 10, walked none with an additional five outs coming on groundballs. The 10 punchouts represented a professional career high for the 23-year-old. He worked at 91-97 mph, sitting at 94, with noteworthy sink (note the groundballs) and multiple swing-and-miss secondary offerings (changeup, slider). Though Light has just 70 2/3 pro innings, as an older pitcher for the level, he has a chance to push his way up to Salem early in the season.

— Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin, 20, went 2-for-3 with a walk, giving him two games already in which he’s reached base three or more times this year.

Read More: blake swihart, garin cecchini, luis diaz, mookie betts
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