A good start, by Jorge
De La Rosa pitches well in rehab appearance, ready to make next step
Jorge De La Rosa just wants to feel like his old self again, and he’s getting close.
Fifteen months after Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, the Colorado Rockies left-hander took the next step in his rehabilitation, standing on a pitcher’s mound in an actual baseball game.
Yes, it was a Rookie league game, but it was the next step in his progression.
De La Rosa, who was on a 50-pitch limit, threw 49 pitches, 32 for strikes, in a three-inning rehabilitation start with the Grand Junction Rockies, who beat Ogden 5-4 at Suplizio Field.
“I felt pretty good tonight, however, I was disappointed in my location,” De La Rosa said afterward.
Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said De La Rosa was “flying open a little bit mechanically,” but thought he threw well.
His first pitch was an 88-mph fastball for a strike. De La Rosa was consistently in the high 80s and reached 94 on a fastball to Devin Shines in the first inning. One pitch later, Shines became the second of his five strikeout victims.
“It was good to see De La Rosa come out and show these guys it’s the same game, the respect for the game; he was tremendous,” Diaz said. “He doesn’t take anybody lightly. He was concentrating on making his pitches and going after hitters.”
He retired the first five batters to face him. Austin Cowen singled in the second, and he allowed two singles in the third inning, one causing a little bit of concern. Delvis Morales lined a shot back to the mound, breaking his bat.
The ball appeared to glance off De La Rosa’s front leg — the barrel of the bat landed shy of the mound — and De La Rosa had trouble finding the ball as Morales reached on the infield single.
Grand Junction trainer Josh Guterman started to the mound, but was waved off by De La Rosa, who struck out the next two batters, ending his rehab assignment.
“The trainer was nervous,” catcher Wilfredo Rodriguez said. “He just wanted to continue pitching. He was like, ‘Go, go, I’m OK.’
“Pitchers like him, they get so focused, you don’t have to talk too much with them. When he got to the dugout, nobody talked to him; he’s focused on what he has to do.”
The Rookie Rockies are hoping De La Rosa’s appearance is a good omen — when he pitched for Missoula in 1999, the Osprey won the Pioneer League title.
Rodriguez was thrilled to get the start behind the plate.
“Before the game I was thinking, ‘I could catch this guy one day (in Denver),’ ’’ he said. “This game was special for me.
“I saw a difference between a Major League pitcher and a Rookie league pitcher. He stayed calm all the time. If he gave up a hit or a walk, he’s just calm and gets out of it.”
De La Rosa threw mostly fastballs and changeups, and had the change working, Rodriguez said.
“He did very good for us, but he still doesn’t feel good about his outing,” the catcher said. “That’s why he’s a Major Leaguer.”
Before the game, De La Rosa said he was eager to get back on the mound. He threw a 45-pitch simulated game Saturday at Coors Field without a hitch, other than taking a shot off a foot.
“I feel much better now since I pitched last (Saturday),” he said. “We’ll see how it goes, see if I’ll pitch more in the minors or if I get called up.”
The injury, May 10, 2011, was a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and required reconstructive surgery.
“It was hard because it was a setback,” De La Rosa said, with Diaz translating. “I was putting together some nice years in a row and my career looked like it was picking up momentum and to have that type of injury obviously it’s a setback, but at the same time things do happen for a reason and I’m glad they found out I had a bad ligament and now with Tommy John surgery it pretty much guarantees I’ll be back probably to my old self.”
The Rockies projected De La Rosa to possibly be back in Denver sometime this month, depending on Wednesday’s start and how his arm responds.
He doesn’t plan to change his approach to the game, and his deliberate delivery Wednesday was the same as when he was in his prime, earning the No. 2 spot in the Rockies’ rotation before the injury. He led all National League left-handed pitchers with 16 wins in 2009, with a club-record 193 strikeouts that season.
As for returning to Denver’s active roster, De La Rosa doesn’t know when that will happen, but he wants to be part of the Rockies’ four-man rotation.
“I obviously don’t know what it’s going to feel like, I haven’t done it yet, but I’m eager to be part of that four-man rotation,” he said. “Once I start doing it, I’ll have feedback on whether or not I like it.”