With two weeks to go until Opening Day, the Colorado Rockies have already lost two-fifths of their projected rotation.
Staff ace Jorge De La Rosa, who is nursing a groin injury, will "unlikely" be ready for the start of the regular season, according to Nick Groke of The Denver Post. This comes on the heels of the Rockies' decision to release veteran pitcher -- and projected No. 2 starter -- Jhoulys Chacin.
De La Rosa recently underwent an MRI that didn't reveal any damage, but the 33-year-old left-hander has been "shut down," aside from simply playing catch, Rockies manager Walt Weiss told Groke. De La Rosa has made only one start this spring, lasting 2⅓ innings against the Oakland Athletics last Friday before being pulled from the game due to a combination of the groin injury and a pitch count limit.
Chacin's release opened the door for one of four candidates to join the Rockies' rotation at the onset of the season. Christian Bergman, Eddie Butler, Jon Gray and David Hale were the top choices to fill that void. Now, half of those candidates have a legitimate chance of breaking camp in Colorado's starting five.
Hale had the best chance of the four to seize a rotation spot prior to the De La Rosa news, and his inclusion is likely guaranteed now. Butler and Bergman will likely spend the rest of spring training battling for the final spot. Gray is the best pitcher of the bunch -- and he showed it on Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers -- but service time constraints will likely keep him in the minors for at least the first few weeks of the season.
The Rockies, in any case, will begin the season with a shortage of southpaws in their rotation, so there is an outside chance that veteran John Lannan will get the nod. Lannan was already reassigned to minor league camp, which suggests that the Rockies don't have him in their immediate plans. But that was before the realization hit that De La Rosa wouldn't be ready for Opening Day.
Chad Bettis, whom Jeff Bridich likes as a starting pitcher, is also an option, though probably not at the level of the other guys mentioned. Back in January, before the Rockies acquired Hale and Kendrick -- and before Butler and Gray made such a positive impression in spring training -- Bettis would have been higher on the list.
Using what we know combined with some speculation, here's how I would rank the rotation hopefuls (in order of likeliness, not preference):