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April 7, 2014 at 8:30 AM

PawSox Notebook: De La Rosa shines, Cecchini challenged

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – In 2013, Rubby De La Rosa made a habit of providing tantalizing glimpses of the talent that once made him one of the top 100 prospects in the game. Of course, he also made a habit of having frustrating stretches in which he lacked control and failed to go deep into games.

So far in 2014, so good for the 25-year-old Dominican right-hander, who went five shutout innings, allowing just two singles and striking out five hitters in his season debut on Saturday. De La Rosa had all of his pitches working, and perhaps more importantly, threw strikes for most of his outing.

“He pitched well—had weapons today and was very efficient,” said PawSox manager Kevin Boles. “He had the three-pitch mix: quick hand with the changeup, had bite to the slider, and the fastball was crisp. He was able to locate and keep the ball down. I thought it was impressive what he did today.”

De La Rosa’s fastball sat 93-95 mph in the outing, despite a bitter wind chill that visibly affected the players on the field, most sporting cold weather masks and hoods. He got all five strikeouts on his changeup, which sat 85-87, and he threw his slider at 78-83 mph. He showed the ability to throw all three pitches in any count, and kept them down in the zone, limiting hard contact.

As for his control, the final numbers show that De La Rosa threw 43 of 70 pitches for strikes. He did struggle a bit in the second inning on that front, throwing nine of 19 pitches for strikes and falling behind all four batters he faced. However, he threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 13 batters he faced outside of that frame, while throwing 34 of 51 pitches for strikes in the first, third, fourth, and fifth.

The SoxProspects.com scouting department will have more on the outing later in the week, but one thing was clear: The more outings from De La Rosa like Saturday’s, the more likely we will see him in Boston soon.

Cecchini Making the Plays
Much has been written about Garin Cecchini’s undeniable ability at the plate, and he has lived up to the hype at the plate four games into 2014. In his first series as a member of the PawSox, Cecchini went 6 for 12 with a double and three walks, good for a .500/.600/.583 line.

But with the universal praise for his offensive game, there have also been questions about his defensive ability at third base. On Saturday, in windy, chilly conditions, Cecchini had ample opportunity in the field to try and answer those questions.

In the fourth, Cecchini made consecutive plays to his left. On the first, he moved several steps to cut off a chopper and make the throw to first. The next batter drove a sharp groundball for which he had to dive, knocking the ball down before getting up to throw the runner out.

In the sixth, Cecchini was pulled in the opposite direction, moving to his right to backhand a groundball and making a deep throw from the third-base line (pictured).

None of the plays were particularly simple, and certainly nobody would accuse Cecchini of making them look any easier than they were. But he made the plays, a point that both he and Boles noted after the game.

“They were tough plays, but I think it’s a credit to the coaching staff, like [Pawtucket coach] Bruce Crabbe, [minor league infield coordinator] Andy Fox, [Boston third base coach] Brian Butterfield, [and others] throughout my career,” Cecchini said. “I’m not going to lie, I came in[to pro ball] not knowing anything about third base, and now I feel really comfortable there and really consistent. I don’t really give a damn how it looks. Hunter Pence doesn’t look good when he does it and he’s an all-star. We’re trying to work on that, but at the end of the day, if you get it done, you get it done.”

“He bodies the ball up,” Boles said. “He made a real nice deep angle to his glove side, knocked the ball down. … We’re starting to see some quickness out of the first step. The arm strength is coming, we like his arm strength. The consistency, that’s [an issue] with all young infielders as far as the accuracy goes, but he bodies balls up. He’s not afraid to stay in there. Some balls get on him pretty quick and he stays in there and regroups, and he’s done some nice things.”

Cecchini is certainly willing to put the work in to improve at third. He noted that he had worked with Crabbe before the game on getting more carry on his throws and on slowing things down in the field. After the game, he was one of a couple players who immediately hit the weight room for a workout.

As for the big picture, Cecchini himself perhaps put it best: “At the end of the day, it’s about getting the job done.”

So long, P.K.
One last note: We at SoxProspects.com want to send our congratulations to Paul Kenyon of the Providence Journal, who worked Saturday's game and is retiring after 44 years in the journalism business, 37 with the ProJo. Paul’s colleague, Jim Donaldson, had a wonderful tribute to Paul in Saturday’s edition that I recommend you check out.

Photo Credit: Rubby De La Rosa and Garin Cecchini by Kelly O'Connor.

Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him @SPChrisHatfield.