De La Rosa giving hitters the slip

Wilkins De La Rosa's days as an outfielder are long behind him as he continues to become a presence on the mound. He signed with the Yankees in 2001 and became a pitcher when his hitting game struggled. The strong lefty continues with the reinvention of his game that started a little over a year ago.

De La Rosa joined the Tampa Yankees last year after being promoted from the Charleston Riverdogs where he posted a 4-2 record with a 1.15 ERA in eight starts.

While his fastball ranges from 88 to 93 mph and remains a rather solid pitch for him, he focuses on his 78-82 mph slider as well as his 82-84 mph changeup, which he said is his most improved pitch.

"My changeup is a lot better than it was last year," he said. "I feel so comfortable now that I can throw it whenever I want. I feel that comfortable with my changeup…My fastball is good right now, but I know my fastball is going to be better than it is right now, because it's early in the season. I've been working on my slider."

De La Rosa said he feels "a lot better" about his command now after struggling at the start of the season.

As De La Rosa made his way up to another minor league level last year, he also evolved from a reliever to a starting pitcher. Even though he has achieved success in his debut year as a pitcher, he said he still has room for improvement.

"I just try to work on everything," De La Rosa said. "Everything a little bit to see what I need to do to be better in day by day and try to get up in my stuff. I just keep practicing and do what (coaches) say I should do. That's helped me a lot."

Tampa Yankee pitching coach Greg Pavlick only saw De La Rosa in three games last year but said he already notices the southpaw making improvements.

"(The pitches) are really getting tighter and sharper," Pavlick said. "His changeup is good. It's got the right rotation."

For any pitcher in the minor or major leagues, the development of the changeup and slider is crucial to the player's overall success in the game.

"We call them secondary pitches and not too many guys can just pitch with their fastball," Pavlick said. "So we've got to have the right changeup to go with it."

Pavlick said he sees glimpses that De La Rosa's pitches could become plus pitches.

"We have some mechanical things we're doing. His changeup has always been fairly good and it will get better," Pavlick said. "The more (pitchers) throw it the more they get a little better feel for it, because guys in the big leagues are still working on their changeups. (For De La Rosa), just tightening the breaking ball up and keeping those fastballs down and staying on line and making sure his slider gets major league consistent."

After struggling to find a consistent hitting game, De La Rosa is pleased to be on the mound and is mainly concerned that his game will continue to head in the right direction.

"The only thing I can do to be better this year is practice a lot with my pitches," he said. "That will give me a lot of success this year."

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