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De La Rosa: Low Average, High Optimism
After hitting .270 in the Gulf Coast League a year ago, he hasn‘t been able to find a rhythm at the plate. Signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2002, he's batted just .234 in his minor league career.
In June, when he last spoke to PinstripesPlus, De La Rosa said that while in extended Spring Training, he focused on his hitting mechanics because that's the area in which he needed the most practice.
The work was put in and he remains diligent, but his effort hasn't yielded desirable results thus far as he's batting just .211 this season. After posting a .270 average in June to start the season, he's slumped, batting a dismal .196 the last two months.
"I just put him up there [in the lead-off spot] so maybe he'll take a few pitches because he's got a tendency to swing at bad balls sometimes," said the manager, Gaylen Pitts in June, talking about De La Rosa‘s slot in the lineup. "And I thought maybe being in the lead-off spot he'd be a little more disciplined, maybe bunt a little bit and hit to the right a little bit."
De La Rosa has taken more pitches, walking 33 times (giving him a respectable .343 on-base percentage), but he's also continued to swing at bad balls. The outfielder has struck out 55 times in 180 at-bats, which is an alarming rate for a slap-hitter.
Despite the numbers, De La Rosa remains steadfast in his belief in himself and his offensive potency.
"It's been one of those up and down years, but I have been working on all the things," he said through coach Julio Mosquera, who served as a translator. "The season isn't over yet so anything can happen. The average is low right now but I have gotten better at hitting the ball the other way."
"If you watch, in the games," Mosquera interjected, "I think most of his hits go to the opposite field." An accurate assessment by the coach as 17 of the left-hander's 36 hits have been to left field this season.
"He hasn't put up big numbers," said Mosquera, "but he helps the team in different ways."
De La Rosa did concede that because he has been mired in a hitting slump, he's focused his energies and talent on other aspects of his game in order to contribute to the team.
The outfielder, who has experience at both center and right field, said that he has worked on becoming better defensively and has attempted more stolen bases than he has before.
He's swiped 11 bases in 16 tries so far and his ability to run has clearly become his best asset.
"I worked in the off-season on my base stealing and I still have a ways to go," he said, "but I'm getting better and I want to be good at it."
Asked if he ever chops down on the ball to force ground balls and utilize his speed, given his hitting woes, he said, "No. I just try to make good contact and hit line drives."
As for his hitting, he said that he'll continue in his usual approach in which he looks for pitches on the outside corner or toward the center of the plate and tries to drive the ball up the middle.
When asked if he'd like to pull the ball more and whether or not it would be advantageous to his game, he said that he'd like to improve in that department, but that it would not become his focus and he'd remain within himself.
"For the rest of this year, I want to keep working hard and with the games left, hopefully things get better," he said. "I just want to help the team as much as I can."
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