One can only imagine what went through Jorge De La Rosa’s mind couple of weeks ago when Rockies manager Walt Weiss told him he was starting on Opening Day against the Marlins in Miami. It’s a good bet the Rockies starter felt emotions of excitement. As a pitcher who never started on Opening Day in his career, he understands that starting on Opening Day is a privilege.
Opening Day is a start that is viewed as an honor for starters. It means the team believes that starter is the ace of the team. It fuels a pitcher’s ego and adrenaline to start the season. It’s something starters dream of doing when they are drafted by a Major League Baseball team.
For the Rockies to tab De La Rosa to start Monday against the Marlins, it shows how far he has come after a Tommy John surgery couple of years ago. He went through long road of rehab in those two years. He had to wonder if he was ever going to pitch again.
De La Rosa worked diligently to get back on the mound last year. That was a win in itself for him. Still, there were questions about him being healthy.
He answered that question well by making 30 starts, and he had a career season by going 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He could have had 20 wins if he had run support. He won 10 of his 16 games at Coors Field with a 2.76 ERA in 14 starts at Coors Field. He flourished as a stopper by going 10-0 with a 3.52 ERA in the 14 starts after a Rockies loss.
De La Rosa’s rehab journey and his career season is why Weiss tabbed De La Rosa as an Opening Day starter. It’s a start that is well-deserved. Even if Jhoulys Chacin is not on the disabled list, odds are good Weiss would have gone with De La Rosa based on him being the consistent starter last season.
What Weiss likes about De La Rosa is how he grinds it out when he is in jams. He figures out a way to get hitters out by striking them out or getting his groundouts that set up a double play. His ability to rise to the occasion endeared him to the Rockies manager.
De La Rosa was one of the few bright spots of what was a lost season. He gave the Rockies the best chance to win when he was out there. He gave the impression he would come through when it was his turn to start. His 16 wins showed what he can do.
What’s impressive him about the Rockies ace is how he grinds it out when he is in jams. He figures out a way to get hitters out by striking them out or getting his groundouts that set up a double play. His ability to rise to the occasion endeared him to the Rockies manager. There’s no question that played a role in the Rockies manager’s decision process of having him start on Opening Day.
Not only is De La Rosa excited about starting on Opening Day, but he is counting his blessings. He is fortunate to be starting in the Major Leagues. He knows it wasn’t an easy process in going through a rehab. He could have given up after two years of rehab.
Looking back, this rehab was a blessing in disguise for him. He found out about himself. He realized how tough he was to go through an arduous rehab, and that attribute served him well by getting back on the mound and doing well.
De La Rosa hopes he still has it this season. He is seeking to have sustained success from last season. He has been inconsistent, but his problems stems from injuries. He has had a good career as a starter. For him to still be pitching in his 30s, it shows he has the stuff to be effective as a starter all these years.
He has the talent, but his injury history will always be a question mark. That’s why he will always be pitching with so much to prove every year.
De La Rosa knows there will always be a season, but Opening Day starts are few and far between. He will cherish this moment.
De La Rosa earned the right to enjoy it.
Contact or follow Leslie Monteiro at @LightRodWriter