Three games started by Jorge De La Rosa in 2014, three similar results. Only thirteen outs recorded in each game, 5 then 4 (3 earned) then 6 runs allowed, and periods of dominance surrounded by complete meltdowns. Jorge has thus far not been able to fill the role of staff ace and has wilted under the pressure of being the team's highest paid player in the final year of his contract.
This year, Jorge has seemed to have different issues in every game. From the first game where he couldn't get in sync with his catcher, then to the second game where breaking pitches and defense let him down, to last night's game where his slider ended up in the right handed batter's box and his fastball was straight and flat about belt high. For those who have ridden the roller coaster of Jorge's seven years with the club, we know he can have bouts like this but is there anything more to worry about?
Prior to his arm injury, Jorge was frustrating to some because of his inconsistency and occasional slumps like the current one. In a month time period of 2008, for example, he had three games where he gave up 6+ runs but also had two games with a single earned run each. Last year though, he seemed to turn the corner. He still had the occasional bad outing but he always seemed to rebound from it with a strong showing in the next game. Below I give three reasons to be hopeful for his return to form.
First, Jorge has had one of the worst schedules to start the season. He began with the pressure of being the opening day starter, then had to pitch the second game back in Colorado, and finally had start the first game of a road trip. As I wrote during the offseason in this article, the first two games when changing to altitude or to sea level are the hardest for Rockies' pitchers. They don't get a bullpen session under the new conditions and have to adjust on the fly as pitches either work or don't work. The schedule moves to Jorge's favor for his next two starts as he gets a second start on the road followed by three days at home before his start after that.
Second, the pressure will start to lessen for him. With Jhoulys Chacin set to come back in a couple of weeks, he will not be the number one pitcher for the team. For a player who let's his mind get in the way of his ability, this lessening of pressure could be huge. With opening day and the first home start out of the way, he will also be able to get into the mode of just playing baseball. Less thinking may prove a good thing for Jorge which gets to my last point.
Third, his lack of success should push Jorge back to listening to his battery mate and pitching coach. Jorge's attitude toward assistance this season has been ridiculous. Everyone wants him to be successful and now he should begin to see that and use it. His previous three outings should have him back to earth. Toeing the rubber, agreeing to whatever pitch his catcher calls for, and then playing catch with his battery mate is what Jorge needs to focus on. The shaking off of signs, slowing down to a standstill whenver someone is on base, and inability to recover from hard hit balls can all be corrected while success for him can be contagious.
De La Rosa is a huge piece to the puzzle of the Rockies' 2014 season. Getting him right and back to form is a huge challenge for the team's coaches that they must undertake. Thankfully, the situation is there for a positive change and we are most likely to look back at Jorge's first three games of 2014 as a hiccup to start the season.