Rubby De La Rosa, RHP
Check out De La Rosa's ERA, and it looks like he's having an encouraging season relative to last year. When you see his peripherals, though, that quickly goes away. He's striking out just eight batters per nine in his second stint at Triple-A, is walking 3.7 per nine, and still isn't averaging six innings per start even though he's now 25 years old and his Tommy John surgery came in late 2011, 33 months ago. For reference, John Lackey's first start back in Boston after his own 2011 Tommy John came 18 months later, and that was considered a (beneficially) lengthy recover time.
It seems as if he is destined for relief work -- the dip in his velocity after a mostly dominant first two innings on Thursday was another reminder of this -- but the Red Sox don't need to push him there just yet. They have the room in their rotation until Henry Owens is ready for the jump to Triple-A -- and he is not there yet -- to let De La Rosa get as much work in as possible.
Bryce Brentz, OF
Brentz was doing pretty alright for a while there, but a recent slump has undone most of that. He's batting .129/.300/.419 over his last 10 games with strikeouts nearly one-third of the time, and is currently zero for his last 21 at the plate. The walks are encouraging, as Brentz has never drawn many free passes and is getting them nearly 13 percent of the time at the moment, but with all the punch outs of late and on the season you have to wonder if he's being more passive than disciplined and pitchers are catching up to that important distinction.
That doesn't mean Brentz's plan to walk is pointless or anything. He just needs to refine his new found patience a bit so that he remains in control of his plate appearances. Right now, it looks like the pitcher is dictating things, and it's keeping Brentz off the bases. The power is still there, but as has been the case with his entire Pawtucket run, more is needed.
Ryan Lavarnway, 1B
Lavarnway has spent most of his time at first base, with just seven games behind the plate and another six as the designated hitter in his 31 total. Combine that with his age -- he's now 26 and in his fourth go of things at Triple-A -- and his line is a bit depressing. The hope was that getting Lavarnway out from behind the plate full-time would help him rediscover some of the power that made him such an intriguing prospect back in 2011, but instead, it's been more of the same. He's been hitting better of late, batting .306/.405/.417, but it's hard to get excited about that slugging percentage from a 6-foot-4, 240 pounder who once hit 34 homers in a season.
The season is still young, so maybe Lavarnway's bat heats up with the weather. It's worth pointing out, though, that over the last three years, Lavarnway has batted .275/.362/.394 with 12 homers in 164 games and 711 plate appearances at Triple-A. In the majors -- the reason he only put up that much playing time in Pawtucket over two-plus seasons -- he hit .208/.258/.327. Not hitting MLB pitching is one thing, but Lavarnway never fully conquered Triple-A despite ample opportunities. With a roster crunch incoming and Lavarnway already pushed out from behind the plate, one wonders how long his roster spot is safe, if it's even safe now.