BALTIMORE — The Red Sox had a set plan for righthander Rubby De La Rosa this season and it did not involve waking him up in the early hours of Friday morning and telling him to get to Camden Yards to pitch out of the bullpen.
But when the Red Sox played 13 innings against the Orioles on Thursday night, their bullpen needed a fresh arm and De La Rosa was the best option.
When his phone rang, De La Rosa was surprised and thought something was wrong. But it was good news.
“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” he said.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said De La Rosa is a candidate to start one of the games in Tuesday’s day/night doubleheader against the Rays. That will depend on how he is used in the coming days.
De La Rosa, 24, was an important piece of the trade with the Dodgers last August. The Red Sox hope to develop him as a starter and have been carefully building up his arm strength at Triple A Pawtucket.
De La Rosa threw only 13⅔ innings last season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. With Pawtucket, he has started 11 games and thrown 38⅓ innings. His longest outing topped out at five innings and 83 pitches so far.
“I’m working on all my pitches and getting better,” De La Rosa said. “Right now, I’m feeling stronger. I feel I can throw 100 pitches at the same power. I think it was a good idea, what they are doing.”
De La Rosa has a fastball that peaks at 98 miles per hour and a changeup that profiles as a well above average major league pitch. His future as a starter will depend on whether he can develop his slider as an effective third pitch.
“You have to exhaust that,” Farrell said. “But for so many years, guys broke into the big leagues as relievers can become very good starters in their career. That’s not an uncommon path to take.”
If De La Rosa doesn’t start, he’ll become a late-inning reliever with power stuff. De La Rosa was 0-1 with a 3.29 earned run average for Pawtucket. He has allowed 25 hits, walked 20, and struck out 38.
In his last eight starts, De La Rosa has a 1.14 ERA.
“I have a lot of confidence with how I have been pitching,” he said.
Illness KOs Napoli
First baseman Mike Napoli, who came out of Thursday’s game in the third inning with an illness, did not play Friday night and is doubtful for Saturday’s game.
“Still has some symptoms,” Farrell said. “Lightheadedness that he felt [Thursday] night, the reason he came out of the game.”
The Red Sox aren’t sure what the illness stems from.
“We’ve had a virus that has circulated through our clubhouse over the last three weeks or so and it could be part of that,” Farrell said. “We’re trying to get every test that we can get to get to the bottom of it and more importantly get information to Mike so we can get a better understanding of what he’s dealing with.”
Pedro Ciriaco, who was designated for assignment Monday, was traded to the Padres for future considerations, either a player to be named later or cash. Ciriaco hit .216 in 28 games for the Sox but had several suitors. The Padres needed infield depth after placing second baseman Jedd Gyorko on the disabled list.
Draft picks sign
The Red Sox have yet to announce any signings from the recent amateur draft. But Baseball America reported that third round pick Jonathan Denney, a high school catcher from Oklahoma, agreed to a bonus of $875,000.
Denney was considered a first- or second-round talent but fell into the third round because of price. He passed on a scholarship to Arkansas.
Lefthander Corey Littrell, the fifth-round selection, wrote on Twitter that he had reported to Rookie League Lowell to start his career.
Baseball America also listed seven other picks as being signed. Outfielder Forrestt Allday (eighth round), righthander Kyle Martin (ninth round), righthander Taylor Grover (10th round), shortstop Carlos Asauje (12th round), catcher Jake Romanski (14th round), lefthander Gabe Speier (19th round), and second baseman Reed Gragnani (21st round) all agreed to terms.
Speier is an interesting acquisition in that the Sox paid a bonus of $200,000 for a player selected low in the draft. He was set to attend Cal-Santa Barbara and was considered worthy of a higher selection.
The game against the Angels on July 7 in California will be at 8:06 p.m. Eastern time after being picked up by ESPN . . . Clay Buchholz threw in the outfield before batting practice, out to 90 feet, and felt fine. He is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Sunday. If that goes well, he would start Tuesday. “I think most importantly, he felt encouraged [Friday] over [Thursday],” Farrell said . . . Xander Bogaerts was 3 for 7 with a home run, two runs, a stolen base, and a walk in a doubleheader as he made his Triple A debut with Pawtucket . . . Jose Iglesias volunteered to pitch Thursday night as the game went long. Farrell appreciated the gesture but declined the offer. Jonny Gomes, he said, would be the first position player considered for mound duty.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.