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De La Rosa looks sharp in big-league debut

The Sports Xchange
Roster Report · De La Rosa looks sharp in big-league debut · Notes, Quotes

Rubby De La Rosa nearly went from Class AA starter to major league closer. The only thing ruining that story was a Dodgers rally that proved fruitless.

De La Rosa, the organization's top pitching prospect, lived up to the hype with a dominant eighth inning of relief in his major league debut. The Dodgers led the Astros by a run at the time, and all signs pointed to him returning for the ninth inning to get a two-inning save.

But manager Don Mattingly didn't double switch, and when the pitcher's spot came up in the top of the ninth with two runners on base and two outs, Mattingly lifted De La Rosa for a pinch hitter.

Instead of De La Rosa getting the save in his major league debut, Javy Guerra closed out the game in his sixth career appearance. Guerra needed just eight pitches, all strikes, to earn the save in the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Astros.

Not a bad day for the much-maligned Dodgers farm system. Jerry Sands, the organization's hitter of the year in 2010, hit a grand slam in the third inning.

Before the game, Mattingly said, "If a starter got in trouble, (De La Rosa) could be right there. But he could be used anywhere."

Anywhere became the eighth -- and nearly the ninth.

How did the Dodgers get to this point?

Four relievers are on the disabled list: Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Blake Hawksworth.

Kenley Jansen threw 38 pitches Monday as he blew a two-run lead. Matt Guerrier had thrown 25 pitches Monday and 90 total in his last four outings over the past eight days.

Mike MacDougal pitched a scoreless seventh inning Monday. The other options were Scott Elbert, and Ramon Troncoso (4.91 ERA minors, 8.10 in the majors).

"We couldn't wait any longer," general manager Ned Colletti. "He's still young, in a lot of ways. But his stuff is pretty strong. His poise far exceeds his experience."

De La Rosa, 22, got the call earlier in the day from Class AA Chattanooga. He had posted a 2.93 ERA in eight minor league games this season (all starts), striking out 52 in 40 innings, and allowing a .199 opponents' average.

The rundown of his impressive inning through the heart of the Astros lineup:

--Whiffed Hunter Pence with a 97 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch.

--Broke the bat of Carlos Lee for a routine grounder to short.

--Whiffed Brett Wallace on a nasty biting slider that exploded out of the zone.

If Mattingly were to make double switch, he wouldn't have removed cleanup hitter Matt Kemp, who made the final out in the eighth. It's doubtful he would have removed No. 3 hitter James Loney, who is so good defensively at first base.

He could have used Juan Castro at second base for Jamey Carroll in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, which would have meant the pitcher would have been due up seventh instead of fifth.

Instead, Andre Ethier was the pinch hitter. He was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rafael Furcal struck out looking, and he's now 1-for-14 since coming off the disabled list.

Mattingly confirmed that if De La Rosa's spot hadn't come up in the order, he'd have pitched the ninth.

"He has a power arm," Mattingly said before the game. "We wanted to put another quality arm out there. It's his power stuff. We saw it all spring. It's one of those arms you don't see very often. He has pretty good command with it. The changeup is basically dirty, and his slider is getting better and better."

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