De La Vara entered spring training with an opportunity to win a left-handed setup role in the Astros' bullpen. While spending last season between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, the 24-year-old pitcher held left-handed batters to a miniscule .134 batting average. However, in 9.2 innings with the Astros this spring, De La Vara posted a bloated 8.38 ERA and surrendered 14 hits and three walks while striking out just three batters.
In order to keep a player acquired in the Rule 5 draft, the selecting team must keep the player on its 25-man roster for the entire season, or work out a trade with the player's former club in order to waive the active roster requirement. After De La Vara cleared waivers, the Royals agreed to pay the Astros the required $25,000 fee to regain De La Vara's rights, which is half of the $50,000 the Astros paid the Royals back in December.
Last season, De La Vara posted a cumulative 6-2 record with a 3.27 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched. Through four seasons in the minor leagues, he has a career 3.40 ERA, and he was an All-Star in both 2006 (Midwest League) and 2007 (Carolina League). De La Vara will most likely be assigned to either Northwest Arkansas or Omaha when the minor league rosters are announced later this week.
De La Vara returned to Royals
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