De La Rosa evolving into natural rotation leader

De La Rosa evolving into natural rotation leader

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."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.