03/13/2013 8:34 PM ET
Improvement shows as De La Rosa revisits past
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa has introduced himself to his old self.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in June 2011, De La Rosa spent nearly a year and a half rehabbing his way through both good moments and setbacks. After becoming one of the Rockies' rotation leaders from 2008-11, he was rusty in three starts at the end of last season (0-2, 9.28 ERA), and his first two outings of this spring weren't much better (0-1, 7.36 ERA).
But while watching old video, De La Rosa remembered how he would tap the back of his glove against his right leg at the start of the windup -- a timing mechanism. He then went back to a practice drill that had him replace the ball with a towel and snap it in the direction of home plate -- an exercise he had forgotten. After showing such negative body language that first-year manager Walt Weiss brought it to his attention, De La Rosa went back to stepping off the mound and taking deep breaths, the way he did when he went from a shakable pitcher to one who could handle traffic on the bases.
De La Rosa put it all together -- or back together -- Wednesday while pitching four scoreless innings in a 2-0 win against the Cubs.
The outing wasn't perfect. He threw 72 pitches and twice faced bases-loaded jams, including one with no outs in the third inning. But he finished with six strikeouts and gave up four hits with two walks. His ability to make pitches when they counted turned the day into a major positive. It was De La Rosa's second consecutive improved outing.
"I used to do a lot of things before I got hurt to get my mechanics there," De La Rosa said. "I was more busy so I wouldn't feel pain before, and I didn't work too much on my pitches. Now I'm good."
De La Rosa has touched 94 mph with his fastball, which sets up his slider and a changeup that he believes he can throw ahead or behind in the count. He used a couple of sliders and a curveball as put-away pitches Wednesday.
"I'm getting close," De La Rosa said. "I still need to work on more things. I'm not ready yet, but I'm getting much better. When you don't feel pain, you pitch more comfortably."
The Rockies need a healthy and fearless De La Rosa, who will earn $11 million in the last year of a three-year deal with a club option for 2014 worth the same amount. Righty Jhoulys Chacin is also returning from an injury, meaning two potential rotation leaders could rebound as the Rockies hope to become a surprise contender.
"I threw with a lot of fear last year," De La Rosa said. "I didn't finish my pitches. You can't pitch like that. Now I feel pretty good. I don't have excuses."
Tulo's hustle on infield single proves health
MESA, Ariz. -- Rockies two-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has cleared each of the expected hurdles as he attempts to prove he's healthy after being limited to 47 games last season because of a groin injury.
He passed an unplanned test Wednesday during a 2-0 victory against the Cubs at HoHoKam Stadium.
Tulowitzki, who went 2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs, hit an infield chopper that charging Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena could not barehand in the fourth inning. Tulowitzki generally saves beating out of infield hits for the season, and while he did not totally push it, he reached first base safely and would have had a chance to beat a throw.
"When I saw it come off the bat, I cringed a little bit, but he hasn't had any problems," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It's a good sign.
"The plan is to peak when the bell rings in all aspects, for all our guys -- particularly a guy like Tulo, who missed time. We're watching him physically. When it's time to go, hopefully, he'll have peace of mind with himself and have enough at-bats."
After legging out the single, Tulowitzki slid into second base to break up a potential double play on Michael Cuddyer's grounder.
Corpas fares well vs. Cubs in bullpen battle
MESA, Ariz. -- With a strong two-inning outing against his former club, Rockies non-roster invitee Manny Corpas was impressive Wednesday in his bid to earn a middle relief spot.
Corpas, who went 0-2 with a 5.01 ERA in 46 2/3 innings for the Cubs last season, fanned two in two perfect innings. In Denver, Corpas is better known as the closer on the 2007 squad that went to the World Series.
Corpas would lose the closer job as elbow problems began to derail him. After missing 2011 because of surgery, Corpas returned to the Majors with the Cubs last season.
The Rockies plan to carry three relievers who are capable of facing one batter or pitching multiple innings to pitch in the middle roles, and there is no shortage of competition.
"There's good competition," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "For the most part, they've thrown the ball well. There will be tough decisions at the end of spring, but that means we're getting better as a ballclub. Corpas is a sinker-slider guy who knows what he's doing. He's wily out there. He knows how to attack hitters."
• Eric Young, Jr., who started in center field and is a leadoff option when Dexter Fowler has the day off -- as he did Wednesday -- or the Rockies want to bat Fowler second and have two speedsters at the top of the order, went 2-for-3 Wednesday. Both were infield singles. Young improved his spring average to .440.
• Rockies second baseman Josh Rutledge's diving stop to keep Scott Hairston's roller from going into the outfield in the first inning helped make Wednesday's 2-0 shutout against the Cubs possible. The hit came with two on and two out. Starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa then struck out Dioner Navarro to end the threat.
"'Rut' had an opportunity to keep the ball in the infield and save a run, and that's what he did," manager Walt Weiss said. "That's the mentality that we're preaching -- prevent runs any way possible. Everybody's responsible, not just the pitcher."
• Veteran first baseman Todd Helton was in the scheduled lineup Wednesday, but was given the day off because of illness. Weiss said Helton is just recovering from a bout with whatever is going around the clubhouse. Pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Joe Gardner were sick earlier in camp.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.