Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa could miss the entire 2012 season after… (Eric Risberg / Associated…)
Rubby De La Rosa was living his dream. Reared in poverty by his grandmother in the Dominican Republic, he was pitching in the major leagues. He looked like a star in the making, armed with a 100-mph fastball and a quiet confidence.
Now, De La Rosa said he fears everything could be taken away from him. The 22-year-old rookie right-hander will undergo Tommy John surgery to reconstruct a partially torn ligament in his elbow.
"I have to make it back," De La Rosa said Tuesday.
Trainer Stan Conte said De La Rosa could be sidelined anywhere from 10 to 16 months.
"With everything that we've been through this year, this is probably as tough as any one of them because it does dramatically affect the off-season for the next year," General Manager Ned Colletti said.
Until the Dodgers learned of the results of the MRI exam De La Rosa underwent on Monday, they figured they had accounted for four of the five spots in their rotation. Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and De La Rosa remain under contract or club control for next season.
Of them, De La Rosa will be the least expensive. Ineligible for salary arbitration, he figures to draw a salary of less than $500,000 next year.
With De La Rosa expected to miss at least a significant part of next season, the Dodgers could be forced to sign two free-agent starting pitchers in the winter instead of one.
Already in bankruptcy, the Dodgers could be further compromised in how they reconstruct their lineup. As many as 10 of the 13 position players on their active roster might not be back next season because they elect for free agency or are let go.
The Dodgers could address their immediate need for a starter by inserting John Ely into the rotation.
But Colletti said he would be open to rushing a top pitching prospect to the majors, as De La Rosa was this season.
The most likely candidate appears to be double-A right-hander Nate Eovaldi, a 21-year-old right-hander with a high-90s fastball who has a 2.62 earned-run average.
Meanwhile, De La Rosa said he is bracing himself for his still-unscheduled operation. "I'm a little scared," he said. "I've never had an operation of any kind."
De La Rosa he was surprised when he was told the gravity of the injury.
"It didn't feel like it was anything that serious," he said.
He said he felt a sharp pain when throwing a fastball to Miguel Montero in the third inning of the Dodgers' 6-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday. He pitched another inning.
While saying he isn't prepared to not pitch competitively for another year, De La Rosa said, "I've accepted the reality of the situation."
Conte said that according to medical literature, the average major league pitcher who undergoes Tommy John surgery can't throw for 41/2 months and doesn't return to competition for 11.6 months.