"We're getting closer with him," manager Jim Tracy said Friday. "We'll be anxious to see after the outing today where he's at when he comes in, how he's feeling. We'll go from there. He's definitely moving in the right direction, no question about it."
De La Rosa is 39-26 in four seasons with the Rockies, including a 5-2 start to the 2011 season with a 3.51 ERA through his first 10 outings before season-ending surgery to repair a ulnar collateral ligament tear in his left elbow. Tracy was prepared to have a conversation with head athletic trainer Keith Dugger "in the next couple days" to start looking at a timetable for a rehab assignment.
"It'll be a progressional thing, I'm sure," Tracy said of the Minor League rehab. "We won't just throw caution to the wind and throw him out there to the wolves. We're not trying to go too fast, not trying to push the envelope too quickly, not trying to get somewhere a few days earlier than you would have if you had just stayed the course."
Early estimates had pointed to a July return for De La Rosa, who went on the disabled list last May 25, but he has made steady progress and may return sooner without having to rush his recovery.
"Once he gets out and he officially gets started in some of these different leagues and starts moving his way up the ladder that way ... those competitive fibers get going," Tracy said. "When you're competing in leagues where there's something at stake for those players that are competing there, that's part of the process, too, because it's been a long time since he's done that last."
Fellow left-handed pitcher Josh Outman is also on the comeback trail, as he will start a Minor League rehab assignment with Class A Modesto on Saturday. He's scheduled to pitch the first inning, then continue in his progression as a reliever.
Outman was acquired from the A's in a January trade for Seth Smith. He is 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 33 appearances (25 starts) in the Majors, all with Oakland.