PAWTUCKET – In Rubby De La Rosa and Anthony Carter, you have two PawSox pitchers who have come a long way since the end of April.
Validation for their efforts in the ensuing months came in the form of a nice reward Wednesday, as the pair was selected to represent the franchise and International League at the Triple-A All-Star Game. The midseason get-together pitting the best players from the I.L. and Pacific Coast League is on tap for Wednesday, July 17 in Reno, Nevada.
“Ultimately we’re happy for both of them, but we wished we had more (all-star representation)” said Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina. “(Relievers Jose De La Torre and Ryan Rowland-Smith) have pitched great and (outfielder Bryce Brentz) has been great, but you can’t put everybody on the team. The people who make the decisions, it’s a tough spot for them.
“Every manager has to fight for his players, but we’re happy that Carter and De La Rosa are representing us,” DiSarcina continued. “They’ve earned it.”
How De La Rosa and Carter blossomed into all-stars is a testament to both pitchers turning things around after a difficult first month – albeit for completely different reasons.
Carter, 27, had a 7.94 ERA next to his name when the calendar flipped to May. The low point for the PawSox closer came April 18 against Lehigh Valley when he was roughed up for six runs on five hits – two of which left McCoy Stadium – in one inning.
Remove from the bludgeoning at the hands of the IronPigs from the ledger and Carter has been fine. Signed by the Red Sox as a free agent last December 2, he rebounded to post a 2.45 ERA in 10 appearances in May followed by a 3.38 ERA in nine June appearances.
Formally minor-league property of the Chicago White Sox, Carter carried a 4.64 ERA into Wednesday’s action. He’s appeared in the most games out of Pawtucket’s bullpen (30) and is 13-for-14 in save chances.
Perhaps the most revealing stat regarding Carter are the seven runs he’s surrendered in 26 innings (2.42 ERA) since the middle of April. Naturally, inquiring minds wanted to know how such a turnout was made possible.
For Carter, it was a matter of “quieting” his delivery.
“Just keeping everything level and attacking down in the zone. It’s allowed me get on top of everything instead of pushing the ball,” he said.
Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur expanded on the modifications made to Carter’s release point.
“We pretty much shortened it by a hair. He’s going to have a long delivery – even right now he has a longer delivery than a normal guy – but it’s a lot more compact than it was,” Sauveur explained. “He got away from it a couple of outings ago, but he made the adjustment on his own.”
Sauveur agreed that the process of making Carter more fluid on the mound was reminiscent of the tutelage he provided to Andrew Miller when the tall lefty was with the PawSox during the first half of the 2011 season.
“(Shortening the delivery) was a big key with Miller and is pretty much the same thing with Anthony,” Sauveur concurred. “Anthony gave up some runs early and struggled. He knew he was going to have a long road, but he’s done well.”
Patience might be the best way to describe De La Rosa’s rise to Triple-A all-star status. Mindful that he had underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2011, the 24-year-old started the season on a strict pitch count. Groomed as a starter, he did not issue more than 56 pitches in any of his five April starts.
De La Rosa threw 56 pitches in four innings on May 6. His next time out, May 11 at Charlotte, saw him jump up to 71 pitches in four innings. The next big jump took place June 2 (83 pitches in 4 2/3 innings). To date, the 92 pitches he rocked back and dealt against Toledo on June 27 represents a season high.
Citing Tuesday’s three-inning stint against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a hiccup, Sauveur has been impressed with the strides De La Rosa has made since Day One. The hard-throwing righthander has made 15 starts for Pawtucket, compiling a 2-1 record with a 2.47 ERA. He’s struck out 61 in 58 1/3 innings while limiting International League opponents to a .191 average.
“Overall, every game he’s gotten better. His pitch count has been built up and he’s done a great job,” was the tip of the cap offered by Sauveur. “Rubby has worked very hard. The maturity level has risen and it’s been fun to watch.”
De La Rosa was all smiles when talking about his all-star laurel before turning serious. He served as bullpen coverage for Boston for three days last month. Even though De La Rosa remains on a starter’s schedule, the option of returning to the big leagues as a reliever remains entirely possible – not to mention intriguing to the youngster himself.
“With pitching, I can do anything,” when asked if he favored starting over relieving at the next level. “I’m healthy now, so I feel like I can do what I like to do when I’m pitching. I’m excited about the opportunity. I feel like I can do it. I can do the job.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03