A leaner Rubby De La Rosa sees a difference this spring

February 20, 2014 - 2:33 am

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A year ago, Rubby De La Rosa made jaws drop with an electric display of stuff. He touched the high-90s with his fastball and got swings and misses with a changeup and slider. But that didn't translate to an impact in 2013. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in August 2011, the right-hander saw his stuff and command endure peaks and valleys. Part of that resulted from the progression back from his surgery but part of that may have been self-inflicted, with De La Rosa raising concerns about his conditioning. That being the case, the team emphasized his need to get on a strong workout program in the offseason. The results in the early stages of camp have been apparent. De La Rosa said that he's currently at 215 pounds, down from 225-226 last year. More significantly, he said that his body fat came down from 20 to 13 percent. The right-hander said that he can see a difference when he's been on the mound for bullpen sessions in the early going, with better mechanics that have made it easier to command the baseball. "I worked hard. I feel better. I feel different. I feel like right with my mechanics, my delivery. This year to last year, I feel from 1-10, 10 better," said De La Rosa. "I can work on one thing. I try to work on hitting the glove. ... It's working." Certainly, the Sox view De La Rosa as a potential impact arm. In all likelihood, he'll open the year back in the rotation of Triple-A Pawtucket, though certainly there's a chance that he could make a compelling case for a job in the bullpen in the big leagues. If he does go to the minors to remain stretched out as a potential starting depth option, there is some question about what kind of innings bump he might be able to withstand. De La Rosa, who turns 25 next month, threw 91 2/3 frames last year while under strict workload restrictions (typically two- or three-inning outings) through the first couple months of the season as he built back up from his surgery. He's never thrown more than 110 innings in a year over the course of his career. That makes it fair to ask what a reasonable ceiling is for his workload in the coming year. "We'€™ll look for a comfortable increase from last year," said Sox manager John Farrell. "But there won'€™t be those early restrictions in April and May as we had last year." Team officials suggest that they might look to max out De La Rosa at roughly 140 innings for the year. Whether those come in the rotation or bullpen remains to be seen. But back on the mound, and more comfortable in his return to the Red Sox organization (as opposed to while transitioning to it a year ago), De La Rosa hopes to use the spring to offer reminders of his considerable upside.