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Countdown to Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day: D-24, Rubby De La Rosa

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De La Rosa prepares to transition full-time to the bullpen. But will his health stand up?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks.

D minus 24: Rubby De La Rosa

  • Date of birth: March 4, 1989
  • Ht/Wt: 6’0”, 210 lbs
  • Position: Pitcher
  • Status: Non-roster invitee
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • 2016 MLB numbers: 13 games, 50.2 IP, 4.26 ERA, 54:20 K:BB
  • SnakePit Rating: 5.02 [pattern of votes below]

The highest ranked of the non-roster invitees, De La Rosa probably won’t be on the Opening Day roster. He’ll instead be recovering from the elbow issue which mean he threw only three innings after May in 2016. At one point, it seemed that Tommy John surgery - which would have been Rubby’s second - was almost inevitable, but De La Rosa went for stem-cell injection at the end of the season instead, with a further course of the treatment in December. It’s a much more experimental treatment than TJ, though not utterly unknown: Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney have had it, though Heaney ended up needing surgery anyway. Richards though? So far, so good.

According to De La Rosa, he’s back to full health: “What I see from it right now, it’s working. No more pain, no more soreness. Just waiting for my time.” However, he has yet to throw off a mound, and is expected to be about a month behind everyone else. All going well, he’ll also return to the team as a reliever, even though he has been almost exclusively a starter of late, appearing in that role for all but four of his 64 appearances over the last three seasons. He doesn’t seem to mind: “I’m comfortable anywhere It’s not the same, but it’s still the game. That’s good for me. If they need me in the bullpen, I’ll be in the bullpen to help the team.”

It’s a seductive idea. De La Rosa was one of the hardest throwing starters we had, the right-hander’s fastball averaging 95.8 mph last season. That would likely play up even quicker in short stints, and the efficiency issues which plagued him [his nine starts covered only a total of 47 IP] will no longer be a problem. Nor will the lack of a reliable third pitch, to go with fastball and a slider that eats hitters for breakfast. Nothing is certain when a player changes roles like this, especially when there is also less than robust health to be considered. But the upside is there too, and Rubby could become a dominant relief option for the remainder of his time here.

Here’s video (via @SteveGilbertMLB) of De La Rosa throwing on flat ground earlier today, so you can get an idea of where he’s at:

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