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MOOSIC, Pa. â It appears the Red Sox are electing to take a cautious approach with pitcher Rubby De La Rosa.
The fifth member of Pawtucketâs starting rotation will make his first start of the season at Lehigh Valley on Monday night. Unlike the teamâs other four starters, all of whom have thrown around 85 pitches, De La Rosa will be limited to about 50 pitches. Graham Godfrey, who tossed two innings in Thursdayâs season opener, is expected to serve as backup.
âJust taking it easy on him,â said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur about De La Rosa. âNo rush.â
The reason the organization is adhering to a different program with the 24-year-old De La Rosa probably dates back to when the hard thrower underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011. De La Rosa spent most of last season on the road to recovery â he threw 13 2/3 innings with none coming after the Red Sox acquired him as part of the mega deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In Grapefruit League action this spring, De La Rosa tossed 6 2/3 innings in four games, all of which came in relief. While in the Dodgersâ farm system, De La Rosa started 39 of the 59 games he appeared in.
If De La Rosa reaches Boston this year, thereâs a pretty good chance heâll do so as a reliever. But given that heâs presently a member of Pawtucketâs rotation, for now heâll be every chance to see whether heâs better suited to start as opposed to serving as a late-game option.
âIâm excited to see the fastball and the slider âŠ heâs got a tremendous slider,â said PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina. âItâs tough to make evaluations in spring training, but you can see the stuff. I was standing next to (Red Sox manager) John Farrell one day when Rubby was pitching. He sees the stuff, too.
â(Farrell) basically said, âDonât mess him up,ââ kidded a smiling DiSarcina. âAny time you have a young power arm (in Triple A), itâs exciting to see how they compete against seasoned hitters who have competed in the big leagues.â
To the best of his knowledge, DiSarcina doesnât know when David Ortiz will officially begin his rehabilitation assignment with the PawSox. The Red Sox slugger is in line to participate in an extended spring training game Monday.
If Ortiz does begin to rehab with Pawtucket on Thursday, he will certainly add flavor to the on-field ceremony that will pay tribute to the 2012 Governorsâ Cup winners along with the traditional pomp and circumstance that surround the first game of the year at McCoy Stadium. Recovering from a right Achilles' tendon injury, Ortiz has stated publicly that he would feel most comfortable with 25-30 Triple-A at-bats under his belt before rejoining the parent club.
For now, the PawSox are taking a wait-and-see approach before firmly entrenching someone in the closerâs role. With the starting pitchers limited in terms of pitch count, DiSarcinaâs immediate concern is making sure he doesnât tax his bullpen too much in the seasonâs infancy.
With Pawtucketâs bullpen having totaled 15 innings in the first three games, it didnât register as a complete shock that the ball club added a pitcher for Sundayâs series finale against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Joining the team was 30-year-old Ryan Rowland-Smith, who had been working out in Fort Myers. Since heâs the only lefthander among the PawSoxâ relief corps, thereâs a pretty good chance of him sticking around.
DiSarcina wasted little time putting his new import to work as Sunday saw Rowland-Smith throw 35 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.
âYou definitely donât want to lean too heavily on the bullpen,â cautioned DiSarcina. âThe majority of our starters are built up to 80 pitches. When they get around 60 or 70 pitches, you start to get concerned, especially when itâs the third or fourth inning.â
Drew Sutton didnât mince words when asked about his second tour of duty with the Red Sox organization. The infielder played in 76 games between Pawtucket and Boston in 2011. Familiarity with how the operation is run wasnât the underlying reason why the 29-year-old signed a minor-league deal last offseason.
âThey offered the most money,â stated Sutton, now in his 10th professional season. âWhen youâre an up-and-down guy and thereâs not really an offer to make the team out of spring training, then you want to do the best you can to provide for your family. It comes down to making as money as possible.â
Sutton cited that he began last season with Atlanta yet he ended up appearing in games with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.
âYou canât pick a situation based on what you hope is going to happen because you canât really predict,â he added. âYou just try to set yourself up with the best possible deal and best scenario where you feel the most comfortable. You canât really plan on anything in this game and Iâve learned that over the past five or six years in my career.â
Slotted in the heart of Pawtucketâs lineup, Sutton is now hitting .125 after going hitless in four at-bats Sunday.
EXTRA BASES: In order to make room for Rowland-Smith, the PawSox placed outfielder Alex Hassan on the seven-day disabled list with a strained calm. The move is retroactive to last Thursday. âŠ DiSarcina said that infielder Brock Holt was available on an emergency basis Sunday, three days after fouling a ball off his foot. Barring setbacks, Holt should return to duty Monday night. âŠ Think itâs been awhile since the PawSox last swept a four-game series on the road? You only have to go back to last August 27-30 in Gwinnett. âŠ Following Pawtucketâs three-game set in Lehigh Valley, the team returns home Thursday to begin an eight-game home stand. The first four games are against Rochester with the second four coming against the aforementioned IronPigs.