D-backs' De la Rosa Underestimated No More

PHOENIX—Eury de la Rosa may not be physically imposing, but he looks a lot bigger as opposing batters are walking from the plate back to the dugout.

De la Rosa has put together a strong body of work to climb onto the Diamondbacks' radar since signing out of the Dominican Republic at age 18 in 2008. He capped a busy, eye-opening 2011 season by going 2-0, 1.03 in 26 appearances with Estrellas in the Dominican League over the winter.

"He pitched on a pretty big stage and in big games down there, and he did well," farm director Mike Bell said. "He could be a sleeper. I think everybody underestimated him because of his size, but he has a lot of confidence, and he challenges hitters."

The 5-foot-9, 167-pound de la Rosa pitched at three levels last season and stood out at low Class A South Bend, where he went 1-0, 1.36 with 10 saves in 41 appearances. He also ran up an impressive 51-13 strikeout-walk ratio in 53 innings. De La Rosa, 22, made one appearance for high Class A Visalia and was added to the Triple-A Reno roster during the playoffs.

His fastball is in the 88-91 mph range and it cuts in to righthanded hitters, and Bell said de la Rosa is not afraid to pitch inside against righties. He also throws a slider and a curveball, and "he can change the shape of his breaking ball, depending on what he sees from the hitter," Bell said.

De la Rosa has been used mainly as a specialist so far in his career, but Arizona is considering a broader role for him this season.

After making a few starts early in his career, de la Rosa has been a hit out of the bullpen. He went 1-1, 1.00 in 27 appearances for short-season Yakima in 2010, giving up 23 hits and striking out 56 in 45 innings. He could start this season at Double-A Mobile.

"You can't turn the other way because they don't look the way everybody thinks they should look. This isn't a perfect science," Bell said. "He's on our radar for sure. They all have to do it at every level, but I think he has a chance."

Snake Bites

• South Bend manager Mark Haley is recovering on pace from surgery for a ruptured bowel on Dec. 29, eight days after surgery on his back. "He's going to be back in the dugout this year. He's doing great," Bell said after visiting Haley in early February.

• Along with Haley, the managers of the Diamondbacks' other full-season affiliates remain unchanged from last season, with Brett Butler returning to Reno, Turner Ward to Mobile and Jason Hardtke to Visalia.