De La Rosa says his arm feels 'perfect'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- From the outside, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa is one of the Rockies' biggest questions this year. After two essentially lost seasons because of an elbow injury that required surgery, it's still unknown whether he can return to his place as one of the game's most effective left-handed pitchers.

De La Rosa, however, believes he'll provide a positive answer. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June 2011, and after a comeback full of setbacks, made just three starts last season. Not having De La Rosa around to lead the staff was one of the many reasons the starting rotation struggled and the Rockies lost a club-record 98 games.

De La Rosa admitted Monday that he threw tentatively last season, especially when throwing a breaking ball. He pitched in instructional ball after the season, but that was cut short when he suffered a slight left knee strain.

But once he ramped up for this season, he said his arm felt "perfect." He sees himself regaining the form that led to a 16-9 record with a 4.38 ERA while helping the Rockies to the 2009 playoffs.

"I never thought it would be that hard," said De La Rosa, who was at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick for a physical and to shoot television commercials Monday, a day before the first workout for Rockies pitchers and catchers. "But I feel very good right now. I think I can be good.

"Right now, I feel like I never had this injury. I feel perfect. It was a long time to come back."

De La Rosa, who turns 32 on April 5, is being paid $11 million this year to complete a three-year, $31.5 million contract. A good year could entice the Rockies to pick up his $11 million option for 2014.