De la Rosa Battles Command Issues

PULASKI, VA - Simon De la Rosa has had inconsistent stint for the Pulaski Yankees this season. His last two games in particular are emblematic of the highs and lows that are prevalent in his development right now.

In eight games, De la Rosa has thrown more than five innings just twice, and has a 5.17 ERA in 31.1 innings. The biggest issue for De la Rosa has been command. He’s thrown the most walks by any pitcher on the roster and in his previous appearance, De la Rosa was pulled after issuing six walks and allowing six runs in just one inning on July 25th.

“Command of the fastball is a big deal for Simon,” Pulaski Yankees manager Tony Franklin said. “Can you take it and throw it where you want to? If you can do that, it’s a pretty good start. He’s got enough velocity on the pitch to play in this game.”

That being said, De la Rosa had two consecutive starts earlier in July when he allowed three combine runs.

“When he’s on, he’s pretty doggone good,” Franklin said, as evidenced by Friday's six innings of one-hit, shutout baseball. “We’ve got some young guys with some very good arms. They have the ability to throw the baseball well with high velocity and that’s a pretty good start.”

De la Rosa and pitching coach Justin Pope said they have been working on repeating his mechanics on every pitch.

“The thing with him is, sometimes he loses the feel for the strike zone,” Pope said. “If he can just hone in on that for five or six innings, however long he is out there, he’s got a good chance to pitch at the higher levels, if not the big leagues.”

De la Rosa said that he noticed that when he struggles, his body gets too far out in front of his arm, forcing him to miss pitches up and outside.

“I think my mechanics have been a little off,” De la Rosa said prior to Friday's gem. “I’m trying to just concentrate more on my mechanics and start with first-pitch strikes.”

De la Rosa has a solid arsenal. He throws three pitches: fastball, changeup and curveball. His fastball sits around 93-94 miles per hour, but De la Rosa mentioned that he has thrown harder in the past.

“He’s got a good curveball and a great changeup coming along,” Pope said.

“I think all pitchers at this level have something mechanically wrong with them and something wrong with them until they figure it out and eventually they will,” Franklin said about the decline in velocity. “When they do and find those one or two things that don’t allow them to throw the ball, they can get pretty locked in.”

Both Pope and Franklin said that De la Rosa’s changeup has developed while in Pulaski but that it’s not quite where it needs to be just yet.

“His secondary pitches, like most players, still need to be developed,” Franklin said. “You have to get them to become three-pitch pitchers and that takes time.”

They also said that a lot of young pitchers tend to not throw their changeup as much as they should.

“It’s a feel pitch, so the more you throw it the better the better feel you have for it,” Pope said. “A lot of these guys have good stuff, great stuff, so at the lower levels, these kids coming from high school don’t need to throw a changeup. They can get by with a fastball and a curveball or slider.

“If you don’t throw it, you won’t have a feel for it and you won’t trust it, because they know it’s their third pitch. A lot of these guys have plus-arms. They can get it up to 95 so it’s like, ‘I want to rear back and throw it hard’ because young guys think that’s what’s going to help them get out of this league because they’re young, and they’re so used to throwing in front of scouts and trying to light up the radar gun.”

Even though De la Rosa has had his share of struggles, Franklin said that he tries to give his young pitchers as many opportunities to get out of jams as he can.

“They didn’t get to this point to be taken out of the game every time at the first sign of trouble,” Franklin said. “I don’t think we do a service to them if we take them out of games when the going gets tough.”

“You want to let them work through as many jams as they can just to find out where they are. If they do, a lot of times they surprise themselves and figure out some things in the process. I think that’s as big a part of gaining experience of pitching at this level as anything.”

The last two starts for De La Rosa encapsulate the entire development process, throwing his worst start of the season two starts ago to throwing his best one of the season his last time out.

Both Franklin and Pope said that De la Rosa is good enough to make it to the show eventually and that he could fit into the middle of a starting rotation someday.

“I think it’s a matter of just getting mechanics and fundamentals squared away and once he does that, he’ll be fine,” Franklin concluded.

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