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Plagued by a bullpen that has registered the worst ERA (4.88) in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers made a bold move yesterday to fix it. They called up their top pitching prospect, Rubby De La Rosa, straight from Double-A Chattanooga.
That evening, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly threw De La Rosa into the fire in his major league debut, inserting him in the bottom of the eighth to protect a 5-4 lead at the Houston Astros. He stepped up to the challenge by striking out Hunter Pence and Brett Wallace during a perfect inning of work.
Will Twins move someone?
The 22-year-old Dominican flashed frontline-starter stuff last night. The right-hander was able to get swings-and-misses on all three of his pitches, which include a mid- to high-90s sinking fastball, a changeup and a slider. His heavy fastball and fading changeup are what particularly stood out, giving him a nasty combination that makes him a dark horse candidate for the team's open closer's role.
De La Rosa pitched exclusively as starter at Chattanooga, where he went 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 40 innings. Long term, De La Rosa has the chance to develop into an ace or No. 2 starter.
For now, Mattingly says that De La Rosa could help the team in a variety of roles, mentioning long reliever and spot starter as possibilities.
Given that he is only 22, the Dodgers will probably take it easy with De La Rosa's bullpen usage. There's no indication that LA intends to transition him from starter to reliever permanently, or even for the rest of this season. While he's up, he probably won't pitch on consecutive days. If he does remain with the Dodgers, he has a chance to become a fixture in the late innings.
With Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Vicente Padilla on the disabled list, the Dodgers desperately need someone to take command of their bullpen's back end. De La Rosa has the stuff to do it. Those pitchers should return at some point, however. As mentioned, the Dodgers view De La Rosa as a starter in the long term, and they have several options to try in the ninth in the meantime. But if he impresses, he may give them something to think about.
Considering how many games the Dodgers have lost this season due to their bullpen, the late-inning duties will be awarded largely based on performance in the interim. De La Rosa is as good of a candidate as any of them (Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Mike MacDougal) based on his skills alone.
Like most of the Minnesota Twins' homegrown pitchers, Liam Hendriks doesn't have the eye-popping, light-up-the-radar-gun stuff, but he pounds the strike zone with a four-pitch mix.
In Double-A New Britain's 7-3 victory over Binghamton last night, the Australian picked up the victory after allowing three runs, eight hits and a walk in seven innings of work. He also struck out nine.
The 22-year-old is now 4-2 with a 3.40 ERA and has a 45/11 K/BB in 45 innings this season. Historically, the sinker-throwing Hendriks has been very good at keeping the ball in the park, but he has already surrendered four homers this year, a career high.
Considering that the Twins are likely going to be sellers at the trade deadline, Hendriks could be vying for a starting rotation spot as early as next spring.
About Chris Hadorn
Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.
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