De La Rosa eyeing breakout campaign in '14
Acquired in mega-deal with Dodgers, righty striving to live up to expectations
BOSTON -- The Red Sox showcased some of their best prospects -- and even a cornerstone new veteran -- at Saturday's annual New Stars for Young Stars event on behalf of the Jimmy Fund.
Off in the corner, shooting pool with youngsters, was infielder Mookie Betts -- an exciting athlete who should have fans buzzing in a couple of years. Plus, the man who has been talked about so much this winter, catcher Blake Swihart, was also on hand, talking confidently about his future and comfortably interacting with fans.
A.J. Pierzynski, who will start behind the plate at Fenway Park this season and mentor Swihart during Spring Training, was making the most of his time in Boston this weekend. Not only did he attend the charity event, but he went househunting and was thrilled about going to the Patriots-Colts playoff game in Foxboro, Mass., on Saturday night.
Surrounded by players like that, it was easy for Rubby De La Rosa to get lost in the shuffle.
The righty, back when he was in the Dodgers organization, was built up with the same hype that surrounds players like Betts and Swihart these days.
But there is still plenty of time for De La Rosa to pan out and become a pivotal part of the Red Sox, perhaps even in 2014.
The hard-throwing righty turns 25 in March, and is coming off a healthy winter for the first time in a while.
He is also entrenched now with the Red Sox organization. Last year, he was the new guy, after being the player to be named in the mega-deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers.
"I'm not worried, right now, about that anymore," said De La Rosa. "I'm only worried about my body and what I can do to get better, and to feel like I'm feeling, right now. It's not easy to go a team and get traded. That was different."
So is coming off Tommy John surgery, which De La Rosa underwent in 2011. Finally, he feels fully recovered from that procedure.
"Last year, I didn't have that feeling," De La Rosa said. "You can't do it when you're not 100 percent, but now I can do it. I feel like [I'm] more comfortable. I feel, like, super healthy."
Not only that, but he has spent a great deal of his offseason working out with a living legend named Pedro Martinez.
"I wanted to train and start working with Pedro -- all in the offseason, [instead of just Spring Training]," said De La Rosa. "We're working on everything a lot. It's an opportunity I can't explain."
De La Rosa looks like he's put in the work this winter off the field, as well. He looked a few pounds lighter than last year.
"Finally, I feel like [I'm] 100-percent good mentally, physically," said De La Rosa. "It's exciting for me. I can't wait for the season to start."
It remains to be seen where De La Rosa's season will start. He could certainly pitch his way on to Boston's Opening Day roster, where he could win a bullpen opening -- depending on how things shake out. The rotation is already very crowded, so that probably won't be an option, at least early in the season.
In 11 games for the Red Sox last season, all in relief, De La Rosa posted a 5.56 ERA. But he thinks he will be in position to perform far better than that in 2014.
"I hope I get a chance," said De La Rosa. "But it's not my decision. I have to do whatever the team wants. If they need me in the bullpen or as a starter, I'm fine with that. So, in my opinion, I [would] like to be a starter. But if they need me in the bullpen, I'll go to the bullpen and be happy."
And if De La Rosa can at least reach his potential, opposing hitters will be far less than happy when they have to face him.