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Rubby untarnished: De La Rosa ‘strong’ in face of career-high workload

08.22.14 at 12:52 am ET
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Rubby De La Rosa didn’t try to hide the frustration of Thursday’s end result.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

The right-hander gave the Red Sox a solid 6 2/3 innings, holding the Angels to two runs on eight hits and three walks on 111 pitches. But he took the 2-0 loss after being outdueled by Angels starter Matt Shoemaker, who tossed a one-hit shutout over 7 2/3 innings against an anemic and shorthanded Red Sox offense. There was only so much De La Rosa could do.

“I tried to do my best,” De La Rosa said. “I tried to push myself.”

All disappointment aside, it was another significant night for De La Rosa, who threw over 110 pitches for the third time in his last five starts.

This August has been unlike most for De La Rosa. This August, he said, he feels strong, maybe stronger than he’s ever been in his major league career. His 6 2/3 innings Thursday puts him at 78 innings pitched for the season, more than he’s ever tossed in his first three years combined. Add that to the 60 innings he’s thrown in Triple-A Pawtucket and he’s at 138 for the year, after never having surpassed 110 1/3 in his pro career entering 2014.

The closest he’s come to this year’s big league workload came in 2011, when he pitched 60 2/3 innings for the Dodgers — he pitched 40 innings in the minor leagues that season — before suffering a partially torn ligament in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery, which he underwent on Aug. 9, 2011. De La Rosa blew opponents away that season with his 100 mile-per-hour fastball, going 4-5 with a 3.71 ERA for the Dodgers and looking like a star on the rise.

All of that potential was seemingly in jeopardy.

“I have to make it back,” De La Rosa, then 22, said at the time

De La Rosa finally made it back to the big leagues more than 12 months later when he pitched two-thirds of an inning out of the bullpen for the Dodgers Aug. 22, 2012 — though it turned out that his performance that day was simply a showcase.

Two days later he was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent Josh BeckettAdrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles.

For the Red Sox, it’s been about reconstructing a once-promising pitcher from scratch. De La Rosa spent most of 2013 as a starter in Pawtucket, amassing 80 1/3 innings over 24 appearances before being called up to Boston to pitch out of the bullpen through parts of August and September.

A year later, De La Rosa feels better than ever.

“Right now I feel strong. I feel good,” he said. “I’m a little tired right now. I’m tired because I threw more than [ever], but I feel strong.”

It’s unclear whether or not the 25-year-old is a finished product, but the Sox have to like what they’ve seen from him as of late. His Aug. 16 outing against the Astros, in which he gave up six runs over four innings, has been the outlier in what has been an impressive five-start stretch in which he’s thrown four quality starts.

On Thursday, he worked through some early trouble to keep the Red Sox within reach.

De La Rosa loaded the bases with one out in the second inning with the top of the Angels order coming up. He got out of the jam by striking out Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout and cruised from there, retiring 10 of the next 11 batters he faced and finishing with a career-high eight strikeouts, a number he’s reached three times this year.

“After the second inning, which he did a very good job pitching out of a bases-loaded jam, I thought he settled in,” Farrell said. “I thought he was really strong early on, better velocity than we’ve seen. Might’ve thrown through the sink to his fastball a little bit at that time but he settled in and was very good.

“Very good changeup, good slider at times. But I thought he pitched well enough to win on most nights tonight.”

Thursday night was the kind of night that was needed for a Red Sox team searching for some depth and stability in its rotation heading into next season. If De La Rosa can remain as durable and reliable as he’s been of late, he may well be one of the players to fit that billing.

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