Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa is on the (innings) clock

September 06, 2014 - 3:53 pm

Prior to 2014, Rubby De La Rosa had never thrown more than 110 1/3 innings in a season. In 2013, his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, he totaled 91 2/3 frames. And so, entering the year, the Red Sox felt that he was in line for about 140-150 innings as an appropriate goal for the 25-year-old. On Sunday, De La Rosa seems all but certain to exceed that mark. He's already accumulated 148 innings (88 in the big leagues and 60 in Triple-A), and as he prepares for his 28th start, he's navigated not only into uncharted territory but beyond where the Red Sox expected him to be. And so, the Sox will manage the pitcher's workload going forward, even as they keep him on a regular turn in their current six-man alignment in order to give De La Rosa the experience of spending a full year in the rotation through the end of September, something he's never before experienced as a professional.

"We would cut back the innings inside a given start because we want to keep the five day rotation or routine going through the end. ... We have a threshold in mind.  As we cut him fairly short last time out, even though I thought he was throwing the ball really well, we'€™re probably going to be a little bit shorter," said manager John Farrell. "We'€™re not just going to let him go unrestricted or 100-plus pitches. There'€™s a limit in mind that'€™s a little bit shorter than a normal regular season. We'€™ve got a number in mind that is out there as far as total number of innings pitched this year."

Farrell said that the team ideally tries to limit the innings boost of its young pitchers to 25 percent from one year to the next. De La Rosa already has exceeded that (indeed, he could come close to doubling his 2013 innings total), though given his age (mid-20s) and the fact that a normal progression following that career-high 110-plus innings in 2010 would have had him in position to experience full workloads, getting to this point did not seem unreasonable.

Moreover, De La Rosa hasn't shown outward signs of fatigue. In his last two starts, against the Blue Jays on Aug. 26 and the Rays on Sept. 1, he's had his best fastball velocity of the year, with his four-seamer averaging just under 97 mph in both outings.

"He'€™s holding his velocity really well. And last time out compared to the two previous there was better feel and execution of his secondary stuff," said Farrell. "While he'€™s getting up in innings that he'€™s not been accustomed to, I still think he'€™s staying relatively strong."

That, in turn, bodes well for De La Rosa going forward, and as he prepares to enter 2015 with the expectation of being capable of assuming a starter's full-season workload.