Rubby De La Rosa began last season as a member of the Great Lakes bullpen in the Single-A Midwest League.
He begins this spring as the top starting pitcher for the Chattanooga Lookouts and a candidate for the majors should the Los Angeles Dodgers sustain injuries in their rotation. De La Rosa was the organization's minor league pitcher of the year in 2010 after a sizzling finish with the Lookouts.
In the first eight Double-A starts of his career, he went 3-1 with a 1.41 earned run average and allowed one home run in 51 innings.
"I don't think there is anything keeping him from going except a spot to be open," Lookouts first-year pitching coach Chuck Crim said. "That's as simple as it is for me. He's got a plus-plus fastball and a plus-plus changeup. We're working on his slider, but Rubby will pitch in the big leagues, whether it's this year or next year."
De La Rosa was scheduled to start tonight at AT&T Field as Chattanooga opens its 140-game season and its 70-game home schedule against the Tennessee Smokies, but he returned to the Dominican Republic on Wednesday because of a family matter. He is expected to rejoin the Lookouts next week.
The 22-year-old right-hander was a relative unknown last spring but is now the No. 3 organizational prospect according to Baseball America. He became a Great Lakes starter after the all-star break and went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts before being promoted to Chattanooga.
Los Angeles recognized De La Rosa in late September.
"I was excited and happy, because that is a big, big honor," De La Rosa said. "I was surprised. When they told me, I couldn't believe it. I thought they were kidding."
Crim was De La Rosa's pitching coach at Great Lakes last season and worked with him this spring in big-league camp. De La Rosa went 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA in spring-training games before being sent to minor league camp.
"When you go last year from extended spring to A-ball to Double-A to almost making the big-league club this spring, that's pretty much a fast track right there," Crim said. "He's got fantastic stuff that is definitely big-league. Let's see how he handles this attention. He competed at the big-league level in spring training, but obviously that is a different arena.
"We're going to see how he reacts being back here, and I think he will react very well. He can pitch in the big leagues tomorrow, so this is all about getting him and his mind ready."