EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 27, 2013

Webster, De La Rosa could make impact in Boston this year

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — Everybody talks about the terrific sink on Red Sox prospect Allen Webster’s fastball. It’s been compared to Derek Lowe’s sink. But Webster’s best pitch might just be his change-up.

Webster spent 2010 playing for the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate Great Lakes, where he was teammates with pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, who also now is with the Red Sox.

“Never in my life have I seen like a perfect change-up,” De La Rosa said about Webster’s pitch. “He can throw it any count. He has really commanded that pitch any count.”

The Red Sox received righthanders Webster and De La Rosa from Los Angeles for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

Both are on the 40-man roster and have a chance to make Boston’s starting rotation at some point this year if someone else falters or suffers an injury. De La Rosa is more seasoned. He already has major league experience. So he probably will get his shot in Boston much sooner than Webster, who hasn’t yet advanced past Double-A.

But Webster, who will turn 23 in February, has the ability to move up to Boston later in ‘13 if he pitches well early. He actually is considered the better prospect.

De La Rosa, who will turn 24 in March, is someone to be excited about, too. His fastball averaged 96.0 mph in 13 outings, 10 starts, for the Dodgers in 2011. The fireballer also features a change-up and slider.

“He’s got great stuff — plus, plus stuff all the way around,” Webster said.

The Red Sox hope De La Rosa and Webster will help fans forget about losing prospects Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly in the deal that originally sent Gonzalez from San Diego to Boston.

Webster working on command

Before being traded to Boston last year, Webster posted a 3.55 ERA in 27 games, 22 starts, for Double-A Chattanooga.

He struggled during his two starts for Double-A Portland after the trade, allowing eight earned runs in 9.0 innings.

“You could tell, though, that he’s really, really good,” Portland center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said.

“He was consistently at 93, 95 (mph with) a sinking fastball. ... And at the end of his (first) outing, I asked him, ‘Allen, how do you feel?’ He was like, ‘I feel good besides me not pitching like I wanted to. I feel good.’ ”

Bradley said Webster’s change-up is a “plus pitch.” It “shows depth and bottom dropping action,” according to soxprospects.com.

“I didn’t see it a whole lot because I think he was more trying to establish his fastball, coming over here to a new system,” Bradley said.

Webster said his sinking action happens naturally.

“To get to the big leagues and stay I have to be really consistent with throwing strikes,” Webster said.

Webster plans to head to spring training early. He has spent the offseason training at Carolina Acceleration in Greensboro, N.C., with Carmine Pagano, a strength and conditioning specialist.

Webster, who is listed at 6-3, 185 pounds, has been trying to add weight.

“(Pagano) gets on me,” Webster admitted. “He pushes me to put on weight. I try. I don’t know what the calories are but he has got a list of stuff I’ve got to eat at a certain time of the day. He’s got it planned out for me.”

De La Rosa wants to start

De La Rosa underwent Tommy John surgery late in the 2011 season.

He returned from the surgery late last season, including pitching 0.2 innings for the Dodgers in relief Aug. 22.

Heading into his first full year back from the surgery, it should be interesting to see how the Red Sox use De La Rosa. He likely will begin the regular season with Pawtucket, but the real question is whether he will be a starter or reliever.

Obviously, the Red Sox will watch his innings, and might put him on a low pitch count as a starter to begin the season.

De La Rosa said he thinks of himself as a starter.

“That’s the main goal: to be a starter,” he said. “I feel really, really good, 100 percent. I feel healthy. So I think I’m ready (to) start.”

De La Rosa has spent the offseason working out in Arizona. Well before the New Year he started playing catch and throwing.

“I feel a lot stronger right now (than last August) — a lot,” he said.

De La Rosa, a native of the Dominican Republic, enjoyed watching Pedro Martinez growing up. A

nd with Martinez back in the organization as a special assistant to GM Ben Cherington, it is very likely the two will work together this spring.