BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
Jorge De La Rosa has been the Rockies’ best pitcher.
Prior to last night’s start against the Diamondbacks, he was 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in four starts. He also had a 17-inning scoreless streak.
Most importantly, he has been healthy. He has been injury-prone in his career, so the Rockies always hope for the best when he is out on the mound.
There is still a nagging issue about De La Rosa, though.
It’s his focus when he gives up a hit or when one of his fielders commits an error. Last night was a good example, and it was why he was the losing pitcher in the Rockies’ 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
De La Rosa was rattled in the second inning, and he gave up a run as a result.
It started when Paul Goldschmidt was on base for the Diamondbacks after Michael Cuddyer could not hold on to the ball that Ryan Wheeler threw from third. De La Rosa promptly gave up a hit to Cody Ross and Will Neives, and the Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead on Neives’ single that scored Goldschmidt.
After giving up couple of hits, De La Rosa was having control problems.
Yorvit Torrealba sensed something was not right with De La Rosa, so he settled his starter down by talking to him.
De La Rosa was able to focus by getting Josh Wilson to ground into a double play for him to get two outs. He finished the second inning by getting Cliff Pennington to fly out.
In the fourth inning, De La Rosa’s focus was an issue again.
After the Rockies tied the game at 1 in the fourth inning, De La Rosa gave up a hit to Martin Prado. He lost control by throwing a wild pitch that sent Prado to second. He followed it up by giving up a two-run home run to Goldschmidt, which gave the Diamondbacks a 3-1 lead.
It seems everything has to be perfect for De La Rosa to succeed.
That’s not a recipe for success.
Being in a jam is something a pitcher has to deal with. It’s on him to find a way to get out of it. That’s the difference between a winning pitcher and a losing pitcher. That’s the difference between a great pitcher and a bad pitcher.
If a starter is distracted because of an error or a base hit, it’s not going to end well. That was the case for De La Rosa.
De La Rosa gets frustrated easily when the going gets tough. That’s not the type of leadership a starting pitcher has to display when he is on the mound.
A starting pitcher needs to exude confidence that he can bounce back from a jam or an infielder’s error.
It’s something De La Rosa has to work on for him to be effective.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss, Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright and Torrealba have done their part to help their southpaw harness his emotions.
It’s a work in progress for De La Rosa. It’s obvious he still has work to do based on what happened last night.
The Rockies need him to figure out a way to have self-control in situations like last night. He needs to trust his stuff and focus on the next batter. He shouldn’t get caught up on a bad play or worry about a baserunner.
De La Rosa can get guys out by striking them out. He has the command to get it done.
The problem with guys like him is his mindset. It means nothing for a pitcher to have a nice arm if he does not have confidence that he can get out of a jam.
Trevor Cahill showed De La Rosa how it’s done when it comes to having self-control in a jam.
Cahill loaded the bases in the fifth inning as he was protecting the Diamondbacks’ 3-1 lead. He gave up a hit to Dexter Fowler, and he walked Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.
Rather than focus on the baserunners or pout about his mistakes, Cahill pitched through it. He was able to get out of a jam by striking out Cuddyer and getting Wheeler to ground out.
That was why Cahill got the win and De La Rosa took the loss in a nutshell.
That was why the Diamondbacks celebrated on the field while the Rockies went to the clubhouse in a somber mood.
The starters set the tone in their team’s outcome of last night’s game.
De La Rosa must apply what Cahill did in his future starts.
It’s easier said than done, though.
It takes discipline for De La Rosa to develop self-control.
It’s something he has to continue to work on for him to finally grow up as a pitcher.
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After having his season done in August with a back injury, it was going to take a while for him to pitch. He was hoping to pitch when spring training started, but the Rockies wanted him to take his time.
Friedrich finally pitched last night against the Reds at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. He did okay, which was to be expected after missing so much time.
He started off rusty by giving up a double to Cesar Izturis, and a single to Donald Lutz that scored Izturis. Jay Bruce hit a two-run home run after that.
He settled down in the next inning.
Overall, Friedrich gave up two runs on four hits in two innings.
Nope, he has no shot of making the rotation. He was a long shot to make it after missing so much time.
There’s no question Friedrich is disappointed that he never had a chance to make an impression to first-year Rockies manager Walt Weiss and Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright.
He felt he was good enough to be in the rotation this year.
In 16 starts, Friedrich was 5-8 with .617 ERA last year. His losing record stems from pitching in pain according to the Rockies.
To Friedrich’s credit, he showed glimmer of hope. He threw strikes, and he went after hitters. He showed he is not afraid to pitch at Coors Field.
His best outing came on June 4 when he threw seven shutout innings in the Rockies’ 4-0 shutout victory against the Diamondbacks last year.
He can build on this according to the organization. They like his mental makeup on the mound. They know he can throw all sorts of pitches such as the curveball, slider, changeup and fastball.
The Rockies hope Friedrich can show what he can do this spring training. He was going to compete with Drew Pomeranz, Chris Volstad and Tyler Chatwood for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
It was not meant to be for him.
The Rockies have to hope Friedrich can show improvement at Triple-A Colorado Springs before they call him up to the majors this year.
They would love to see him start this year. They feel he can only make progress by pitching in the majors. A pitcher’s growth can be determined by how he fares going up against hitters in the majors. He can only do so much in the minors.
The Rockies would love to have a rotation that can give them a chance every game.
They only have three serviceable pitchers in Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Jeff Francis. They would love to develop two young starters this season, and they feel Pomeranz and Friedrich can be guys they can develop.
Juan Nicasio is not the answer with the way he has pitched this spring training. He has given up 11 runs on 15 hits in the 10 innings he pitched. He continues to struggle when it comes to throwing secondary pitches.
Nicasio is fortunate there are not many options for Weiss to replace him. Right now, he will be in the rotation even though he does not deserve to be there.
Volstad has done okay, but it is clear Weiss does not think he is not a starting material based on his ability to give up home runs when he pitches.
This is why it was disappointing for Friedrich that he did not have a chance to show Weiss what he can do. Maybe he beats Nicasio for a spot in the rotation if he pitched well enough.
All Friedrich can do is show that he is ready by pitching well in the minors.
If Nicasio struggles and Friedrich does well next month, there could be changes in the rotation.
The Rockies are better off if Friedrich is in the rotation.
They saw enough of Nicasio. He is good enough to be a reliever. He is not a starter. He gets hit around when the hitters face him second time in the game. He relies only on his fastball.
The Rockies can do better.
They are hoping Friedrich could be a guy that makes the rotation better.
They like to see a guy who can develop into serviceable starter. He has the stuff to be good. It’s a matter of him going out there and performing. The fact the Rays wanted him this offseason shows you how they believe he is good. That’s why the Rockies haven’t traded him yet.
Friedrich will not be in the rotation with the Rockies to start the season, but it does not mean all is lost for him.
All it takes is one good month for him to pitch for the Rockies.