In case you've missed it -- and one could hardly blame you with the barrage of lackluster play the Colorado Rockies have been displaying lately -- Jorge De La Rosa appears to be his old self again.
This season, De La Rosa has become the Rockies' winningest pitcher as well as the most prolific strikeout machine in team history after notching punch-out No. 1,000 last night.
Not only were his six innings of two-run baseball (on the road in a hitter's park) magnificent to watch in contrast to what the team has been getting from its starters this season (or last season or the season before that), it was perfectly indicative of who De La Rosa has been for several year now when healthy: the best, most consistent pitcher the Rockies have to offer.
Over his last seven games, Jorge has thrown 43 innings, earning a 5-1 record to go with a 3.14 ERA. His season ERA still sits above 4.00 mostly due to a couple of blowups upon his return from injury. Since settling back into a normal rhythm he has been the De La Rosa of old.
And he is doing it all while nursing a nagging cut on his throwing hand.
It has been since 2009 that the word "ace" could reasonably be used in association with Jorge De La Rosa, but I can't help but feel he has been perennially underrated since then. Whatever fears about injuries taking their toll or his age catching up to him should -- at least for the time being -- be put aside in favor of celebrating and recognizing just how consistent he has been, especially when considering the whirlwind in the rotation around him.
Chad Bettis is the most exciting pitcher in the Rockies rotation right now. If there is any justice in the world, Jon Gray will be taking that mantle soon. But both men -- and other soon-to-be challengers like Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland -- have a long way to go before earning the title "reliable."
Say what you will about what De La Rosa doesn't have; if you put his performance in the context of "what Rockies pitchers have achieved in the last five or six seasons," what he has done is almost superhuman.
It is always nice to have an ace. But short of that, almost every position player will tell you that all they want from their starting pitcher is to take the field behind him with a sense of confidence -- the proverbial "we have every chance to win this game today" attitude.
Behind De La Rosa, the Rockies have achieved that goal more often than behind anyone else. Behind De La Rosa, this team always feels like it has a chance to win.
It has been a dreary season filled with disappointments and regret. But De La Rosa has quietly been putting together a year that could go a long way toward carving his name at the very top of the list of the best pitchers the Rockies have ever had.