SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Early in spring and nearly two years after Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa is still struggling to find his form.
De La Rosa was on the disabled list from May 25, 2011, through Sept. 20, 2012, and he made three starts upon his return last season, posting a 9.28 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. In two Cactus League starts so far this spring, the 31-year-old southpaw has a 7.36 ERA in 3 2/3 innings, capped by a rough outing Sunday when he faced 11 batters in 1 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits while walking three and hitting a batter to force in a run in a 7-2 loss to the A's.
"We'll have some patience with Jorge, because he hasn't been out there much in the last year and a half or so," manager Walt Weiss said. "He's a guy we're counting on, and he knows that. We got another month here, so we're not going to get too carried away. It wasn't real pretty, but he's got some time to figure some things out."
De La Rosa has won 39 games for the Rockies in five seasons, three cut short by injury, and Colorado is counting on him to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in 2013.
At the other end of the rotation, Tyler Chatwood is vying for a fifth starter's slot, and his outing epitomized a mixed bag following De La Rosa for three innings Sunday. Chatwood faced nine batters in his first inning, loading the bases with a walk and two singles, then forcing three runs across the plate with two hit batters and a walk. As he noted, he was ahead in the count with "all the guys I hit," but any time three runs score as a result of four free passes, something is off.
Chatwood adjusted beautifully, however, retiring seven in a row and striking out five on the day, demonstrating a resiliency essential for Rockies pitchers throwing half their innings at Coors Field.
"As a starter, if you have a bad inning, you can't really dwell on it," Chatwood said. "You have to go back out there for five or six more innings. It's something to build off and try to eliminate those long innings."
The determination was not lost on Weiss.
"It was nice to see him battle back," the skipper said of Chatwood. "The first inning looked like he wasn't going to be able to give us three, but he battled back and was able to do that. That's part of who he is. He'll go out there and grind and do whatever he needs to compete.
"That's got to be our identity: to compete, regardless of the circumstances."