3/11/2014 9:38 P.M. ET
De La Rosa evolving into natural rotation leader
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- The Rockies can depend on left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa. Sure, he struggled in his first Cactus League start, but he's been progressively better since. He can't get much better than his three scoreless frames with two hits and one strikeout in Tuesday's 13-0 win over the Cubs.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss hasn't announced it, but that type of dependability -- which resulted in a 16-6 record and 3.49 ERA last season -- likely will earn De La Rosa the honor of being the Rockies' Opening Day starter.
If De La Rosa is named to start March 31 at Miami, it will be the first Opening Day start of his career. With righty Jhoulys Chacin unlikely to be back from his right shoulder strain and inflammation before mid-April, there is little reason not to choose De La Rosa, even though he doesn't see it as a huge deal.
"I hear something in the paper, but they haven't told me," De La Rosa said. "I don't care if I pitch the first or the fifth, I just want to pitch."
At any rate, De La Rosa is a natural leader for the rotation.
He'll turn 33 on April 5, and has been with the club since 2008. His 2.76 ERA at Coors Field last season was a club record, and he went 10-1 at a park that many pitchers hate. He also has had quite a few ups (16-win performances in 2009 and '13) and downs (a Tommy John elbow surgery that cost him most of '11 and almost all of '12) in purple pinstripes.
If he's the leader, De La Rosa is excited about the followers. The acquisition of lefty Brett Anderson added talent to a rotation that last year produced little after De La Rosa, Chacin and Tyler Chatwood. Righty Juan Nicasio has been strong this spring after the Rockies put out a call to challengers for his rotation spot, and lefty Franklin Morales and righty Jordan Lyles have had their moments while competing to be Chacin's temporary replacement.
"We've got more depth," De La Rosa said. "Nicasio has a lot of confidence in himself, and he's showing everybody where he wants to be. I'm glad for him and hope he can do the same thing the rest of the year."
Lyles 'in a good place' as he eyes rotation spot
MESA, Ariz. -- Righty Jordan Lyles, competing for the Rockies' rotation spot that will be open at the start of the year as Jhoulys Chacin recovers from a right shoulder injury, made forward strides during three scoreless innings in Tuesday's 13-0 victory over the Cubs.
Lyles' first inning featured two loud outs to the outfield but no damage, and he looked effective the rest of the time. He finished with four strikeouts, and was at his best in his final inning. Lyles came from the Astros as part of the trade for center fielder Dexter Fowler.
While working with Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright, Lyles, 23, has made small tweaks that he hopes will make him a more consistent ground-ball pitcher. Lyles has a 1.13 Cactus League ERA. The more experienced Franklin Morales, a lefty, and Christian Friedrich, who was limited to four appearances at Triple-A by back issues last season, also are competing. Morales could be used in the bullpen and as a spot-starter if the Rockies don't put him in the rotation.
"He's getting some confirmation out there with the things he's working on," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said of Lyles. "He's developing some angle with his fastball, which is going to allow him to keep the ball on the ground. He can two-seam it already.
"He threw some good cutters. He's got the breaking ball, good curveball, but I think it was a cutter he was throwing today, and he got some swings and misses on it. Jordan's in a good place."
Center-field competition may take duration of spring
MESA, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said competition for playing time in center field could go until late in camp.
Right-handed-hitting Drew Stubbs, the most experienced of the competitors, went 2-for-3 with an RBI in Tuesday's 13-0 victory over the Cubs to lift his batting average to .278. Left-handed-hitting Corey Dickerson had a single and is at .346. Righty hitter Brandon Barnes went 1-for-6, which merely dropped him to .346. Left-handed-hitting Charlie Blackmon did not play and is hitting .227.
Barnes entered the spring viewed as a reserve candidate. But he started in center most of last season for the Astros, who sent him and pitcher Jordan Lyles to the Rockies for center fielder Dexter Fowler.
"I think Barnes gets left out," Weiss said. "It's a really competitive situation. The guys are showing up well."
Most of the competitors can be used as leadoff men, but Stubbs has struggled at that spot and has some skills that can work lower in the order. Stubbs batted fifth Tuesday and has been used in several places this spring.
"I'm not for sure yet exactly where he fits," Weiss said. "There are a few spots. The other day I hit him second, and I thought he looked pretty comfortable in that spot."
Getting AB's, Pacheco looks toward playing in field
MESA, Ariz. -- Catcher Jordan Pacheco started Tuesday's 13-0 win over the Cubs as designated hitter -- going 1-for-1 with a single, a run scored and two walks in his first extended action since the Spring Training opener. Pacheco was out with a strained left shoulder.
The next test for Pacheco, who didn't have any structural damage but needed to build the rotator cuff muscles, will be playing defensively.
"The swing feels good, and it's nice to get out there and actually participate in a game," said Pacheco, who had a pinch-hit at-bat in Monday's 5-0 loss to the Padres. "The shoulder feels good, no pain.
"It's just being strong. My little rotator cuff exercises helped out a bunch. Going from not holding a glove up to doing it every day is a little wearing on the body. I've just got to be smart and keep up my exercises. It should be good."
The Rockies project Pacheco as backup catcher, although Michael McKenry is pushing for that spot as well. Nonetheless, looking forward to a full season of catching after serving as a corner utility man the last two seasons, Pacheco, 28, sees the time out of the lineup as a blessing disguised by pain.
"You don't want to sit out, but it was good for my body," Pacheco said.
Chacin moving steadily forward in shoulder recovery
MESA, Ariz. -- Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin is happy with his progress in his return from right shoulder strain and inflammation.
Chacin threw at 90 feet Monday and will move to 120 feet Wednesday.
"If I start feeling good, I'll keep moving [back]," Chacin said. "The good thing is I'm feeling good. My ball is coming out good. Everything feels fine, I feel strong. I'm very happy everything is working out."
The Rockies shut Chacin down without having thrown a bullpen session this spring. It turned out Chacin's shoulder began hurting when he tried to throw off a mound before Spring Training. While he is improving, it's almost a certainty he will begin the regular season on the 15-day disabled list.
"I'm thinking about the long term, not rushing and getting set back," Chacin said.
• The Rockies hit four home runs Tuesday, one by a projected regular (Nolan Arenado). The others were from 2010 top pick Kyle Parker -- a rocket shot to left off Cubs starter Travis Wood -- Kent Matthes and Ryan Wheeler.
With some adjustments to his approach, Wheeler, who came in a trade with the D-backs before last season and appeared in 28 games for the Rockies in 2013 (.220, 0 HR, 7 RBIs) has put himself in consideration for a left-handed-hitting backup corner infield/bat off the bench role. Wheeler, 25, punctuated his homer, a pull shot to right field, off Chang-Yong Lim with a stylish bat flip.
"The power is coming," Weiss said of Wheeler, who hit 12 homers at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season and had 15 for Triple-A Reno in the D-backs' system in 2012. "You see him loft balls in batting practice that you didn't really see, even a year ago. He got bigger and stronger this offseason.
"He's always been a deep-contact guy who hits the ball in the off-gap really well, and he's picking spots to catch the ball out front and do what he did today."
• The Rockies are grinding through a difficult schedule stretch. Wednesday is the start of five games in three days, including three night games.
• Second baseman DJ LeMahieu hit .297 in 81 games in 2012 and .280 in 109 games last year, but finished each season with two homers. The 6-foot-4 LeMahieu, however, could make strides as a hitter if he adds power. Weiss sees LeMahieu making an adjustment.
"DJ knows pitchers are pounding him in, because he inside-outs the ball so well," Weiss said. "The best way to get them out of there every once in a while is to catch the ball out front, or shoot it in the seats. There's some power in there."