SAN FRANCISCO -- Jorge De La Rosa admits having Opening Day excitement in the dying days of the Rockies' season.
De La Rosa is scheduled to make his season debut for the Rockies in Thursday afternoon's finale of four games with the Giants. It will be his first Major League appearance since May 24, 2011, when he suffered a left elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Twice, De La Rosa had injury rehab assignments halted because of tightness and swelling in the elbow.
But De La Rosa was pain-free and mostly effective in three recent starts, one at Rookie-level Grand Junction and two at Class A Modesto. An excited De La Rosa, 31, said he'll just have to battle an old demon when he finally takes the mound.
Before finding his form with the Rockies -- he is 39-28 with a 4.38 ERA and the team is 50-35 in his starts -- he bounced through four Major League organizations and the Mexican League. A major issue was a lack of ability to control his emotions. There will be plenty of emotions Thursday.
"It's really exciting to be back in the game," De La Rosa said. "But at the same time I have to be calm, don't get too excited on the mound. That will be real hard for me, but I will try to stay calm and make my pitches."
Rockies manager Jim Tracy said De La Rosa built himself to 95 pitches during his rehab assignment, but he will be watched closely Thursday. He'll have two or three starts before season's end. De La Rosa and Tracy each said it's unclear if the Rockies believe the starts will be enough to give De La Rosa full confidence going into next year, or if the team will recommend he pitch in winter ball in his native Mexico.
Tracy is happy, even if it's for just a few games, to have a rotation that simultaneously includes De La Rosa, fellow veteran left-hander Jeff Francis and right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who missed more than three months with a nerve issue in his chest. The Rockies were counting on De La Rosa and Chacin being together and effective earlier, and they signed Francis as a free agent in June.
De La Rosa had hoped to be back in May.
"I haven't seen him for 16 months, and I've missed him," Tracy said.