‘[Heck] yeah it meant more.’
That was Dane De La Rosa‘s response when asked after Tuesday’s 6-5 win if it meant more to get a save against this team. The word he used was more, well, R-rated than ‘heck.’ And he wasn’t joking.
It did mean more.
The Rays gave De La Rosa another chance. They signed him in November 2009, after he had spent three years toiling away in independent ball, and housed him (mostly in their Minor League system) for the next three years before parting ways with him (in exchange for Steve Geltz) just before the start of the 2013 regular season.
For De La Rosa, this was, as he put it, “full circle.”
“They gave me a chance,” he said after his second career save, both this year. “Stuff happens. But while I was here, I learned. This is a great organization, obviously, to learn pitching, just controlling the running game and stuff like that. Everything I learned, everything I did in this organization, I feel like it wasn’t a waste. It was for something. Now this is, I guess, what it’s for.”
It took him a while, sure, but this season — his age-30 season — the 6-foot-7 De La Rosa has finally established himself in the big leagues, with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 60 innings. This month, he’s given up one run in 11 appearances (spanning 9 2/3 innings), basically becoming Ernesto Frieri‘s backup closer with the Angels.
De La Rosa made sure to keep the ball on Tuesday night. When you go through as much as he has, you tend to value moments like this a little bit more.
As Jason Lee said in one of my favorite movies, Vanilla Sky: “I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”
“Joe [Maddon] used to talk about the levels of being a big leaguer,” De La Rosa said. “And I think, right now, I’m at that last level, which is knowing I should be here and building on each outing as a big leaguer – not as a Triple-A guy or just a guy who’s a fringe guy. Just knowing that I belong here and throwing the way I usually throw.
“Coming back into baseball, affiliated baseball at least, being with them, working my way up to there, then coming back here and getting the save, it’s cool.”