Dodgers pitcher Rubby De La Rosa delivers a pitch during an exhibition game… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Rubby De La Rosa was in his hotel room in Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday morning when he received a call from Dodgers farm director DeJon Watson.
The call was unexpected.
Less than 13 months removed from a reconstructive elbow operation, De La Rosa was being called back up to the major leagues. He was taking the roster spot of former closer Javy Guerra, who was sent down to triple-A Albuquerque to work on his command.
"I can't believe I'm here," De La Rosa said.
He was thinking he would make his return in September, when teams can have as many as 40 players on their active roster.
Armed with a 100-mph fastball, De La Rosa broke into the major leagues last season at 22 as a starting pitcher. He was 4-5 with a 3.71 earned-run average and struck out 60 batters in 60 2/3 innings. But he blew out his elbow and was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery in early August.
Manager Don Mattingly said the Dodgers' long-term view of De La Rosa is as a starting pitcher. However, the plan is for De La Rosa to be used as a reliever for the remainder of this season.
"We will handle him a little more carefully," Mattingly said.
To prepare for his return to the Dodgers, De La Rosa pitched in four minor league games — one with the rookie league team in Arizona and three with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
He struck out 12 and walked three over 12 scoreless innings. He said his fastball was clocked as high as 99 mph.
Can he touch 100 again?
"I can do it right now, but I don't want to," he said. "I'm still a little scared to put in all my gas."
Surgery for Hairston?
Utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. hasn't responded well to treatment on his injured left hip and could be forced to undergo a season-ending operation.
Trainer Sue Falsone said Hairston received an anti-inflammatory injection last week.
"He's still in pain, still having some hip issues, not really responding to conservative treatment," Falsone said. "We did an injection last week with him, so you would hope that he'd be feeling better after an injection. But he's just not feeling real well."
If Hairston undergoes surgery, Falsone said he would be ready to resume baseball activities by spring training. Hairston is under contract for next season for $3.75 million.
"We're not quite there yet. We're still going to monitor him the next day or two and see if we can make a big change coming up, but with the injection last week, we'd be expecting him to be a lot better right now."
Another utility player, Justin Sellers, will undergo a lower-back operation Thursday and is done for the season. Sellers has been on the disabled list since May 23.
Lilly to return in September?
Examined on Monday night by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, Ted Lilly has been cleared to resume his rehabilitation program.
Lilly's goal is to return to the Dodgers in September as a reliever.
"Our rotation's probably pretty set," Lilly said.
The left-hander has been sidelined by shoulder inflammation since May 24.