ST. PETERSBURG — The last time RHP Dane De La Rosa saw a game at Tropicana Field, he was a young minor-leaguer with the Yankees whose Gulf Coast League team was invited out in 2003 to see the big club.
Tuesday he had a better view, called up to bolster a depleted Rays bullpen and adding another chapter to his story of tremendous perseverance.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," De La Rosa said. "I've had to go through a lot of trials and tribulations, but it was worth it. I worked my butt off for the last six years to get back to affiliate ball. And to now be in the big leagues is a pretty big deal."
That's because De La Rosa, 28, took a circuitous path. After being released at the low end of the minors by both the Yankees and Brewers, De La Rosa spent four years playing for six different teams in three independent leagues — then not playing in July 2009 when he decided to go home rather than make a fourth 25-hour A/C-less bus ride with the El Paso Diablos.
And one year, 2006, out of baseball when he opted to instead join the real world and try — unsuccessfully — to sell real estate. "Good thing the market went down, or else I might not be here," he joked.
De La Rosa said he had a feeling a promotion was a possibility given the state of the Rays pen, but was still surprised when Triple-A Durham manager Charlie Montoyo called him late Monday in his Rochester, N.Y., hotel room. Plus, it was sooner than he expected since this was his first season above the Double-A level.
He spent about an hour on the phone with his fiancee sharing the news, then called other friends and family and turned off the ringer on his cell phone so he could get some sleep.
De La Rosa — who stands 6 feet 7 and throws hard, was 4-3, 3.86 in 35 games for the Bulls, with 50 strikeouts and 21 walks in 462/3 innings.
LONG MAN: RHP Jeremy Hellickson knew he needed to get deep in the game, but after he threw 66 pitches in the first three innings it was reinforced by pitching coach Jim Hickey. "Hick came up to me after the third and said, 'You're on pace to throw five innings, and we can't have that,' " said Hellickson, who ended up working seven, throwing 119 pitches and retiring 12 straight in one stretch.
PITCHING IN: RHP Wade Davis, on the DL with a forearm strain, is set to rejoin the rotation Friday. Davis said he felt good after throwing a 65-pitch bullpen session on Monday and would go through a light workout today. RHP Alex Cobb is expected to be sent back to Durham but is scheduled to make another start on Sunday.
MEDICAL MATTERS: RF Ben Zobrist left with a bruise shortly after fouling a ball off his right calf and said he wouldn't know until this afternoon if he could play tonight. … OF Matt Joyce's sore right knee improved enough for him to pinch-hit for Zobrist in the seventh and play the field, and he could start tonight. … C Jose Lobaton said an MRI exam confirmed the initial diagnosis that he sprained the MCL in his left knee, but there was no tear or damage requiring surgery: "The good thing is the MRI said nothing was bad." Lobaton said he still feels some pain when squatting. … C John Jaso, on the DL with an oblique strain, is doing some throwing and other drills but has not yet swung a bat. He could rejoin the Rays on their upcomng 10-day road trip.
MINOR MATTERS: Top prospect LHP Matt Moore will make his Triple-A debut on Friday for Durham. Moore, 22, was promoted after going 8-3, 2.20 in 18 starts at Double-A Montgomery, with 131 strikeouts in 1021/3 innings and only 28 walks. "Matt showed that he had nothing else to prove at the AA level," farm director Mitch Lukevics said. … With Cs Robinson Chirinos and Lobaton promoted to the Rays, Nevin Ashley was also moved from Montgomery to Durham.
MISCELLANY: RHP Joel Peralta got his third save, first since 2007. … RHP Jeff Niemann will sign autographs from 11-noon at a new Wal-Mart, 201 34th St. N. … For only the third time since May 11, the Rays gained a game on the Red Sox and Yankees. … Former Gators and Bucs QB John Reaves was Maddon's guest.