A converted outfielder, Wilkin De La Rosa moved to the mound in 2007 and has pitched his way onto the Yankees 40-man roster. He’s slated to work as a starter in Double-A this season — and the Yankees will give him every chance to stay in the rotation — but he could get on the fast track as a left-handed reliever. And it’s Wilkin, not Wilkins. “With no S,” he said.
How did you find out that the Yankees wanted to make you a pitcher?
De La Rosa: I had been playing in the New York-Penn League. After the season, when I got back to the Dominican, they called me and said the team wanted to try me on the mound, and I said, let’s see what I can do. I just said yes… I had to learn another part of the game, mentally especially. I had to practice something that I did not know. I got in this, and I feel in more control now.
Had you pitched before? Did you pitch as a kid?
De La Rosa: No. I never pitched. I always liked to be a position player, so that’s what I did when I was a kid. I played third base and outfield. I always had a good arm.
Did you start just throwing fastballs, just trying to throw strikes?
De La Rosa: I just started with fastballs. In my sides, everything was fastballs. When I came to the mound, my first inning was just fastballs to see how I could handle this. And then I established my breaking ball.
Was a breaking ball harder to figure out?
De La Rosa: For me it was a little hard, because I had never done it before. I just worked hard on that stuff. The pitching coach in the Dominican told me that I was working so hard, so that has helped me out a lot. I was with a pitching coach from the Dominican Summer League… I tried a curveball first, but they switched me and told me I had to throw a slider.
Do you miss hitting?
De La Rosa: A lot. When I started pitching, that was so hard for me because I had been hitting the whole time, my whole life, but I feel comfortable now. I’m just going to be working hard.