Hale hands rotation spot to De La Rosa

Righty to follow Greinke, Miller and Corbin in D-backs' revamped unit

Hale hands rotation spot to De La Rosa

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the D-backs opened Spring Training this past week, manager Chip Hale said three spots in the rotation were spoken for, as Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin had locked them up.

After thinking about it for a couple of days and discussing it with his coaching staff, Hale added one more pitcher to the list: Rubby De La Rosa.

"I talked to him today," Hale said. "Through my coaching staff I had heard there was some wonderment of what was going on, and after thinking about it and what he did for us last year, he deserves to be in there."

De La Rosa made 32 starts for the D-backs last season, and he posted a 14-9 record with a 4.67 ERA.

Consistency was what eluded the right-hander, and he knows that he needs to improve against left-handed batters, who hit .315 off him as opposed to the .214 mark to which he held righties.

De La Rosa has worked hard over the offseason on his conditioning as well, dropping 22 pounds.

"I have to be more consistent," De La Rosa said. "My body feels great."

Pitching coach Mike Butcher, who is in his first year with the D-backs after being with the Angels, has worked with De La Rosa over the past month and likes what he's seen.

"For me, it's the execution of pitches and how to put them together and give him a good plan to do those things," Butcher said of De La Rosa improving against left-handed hitters. "He's grasped on to that very good. Obviously he has exceptional stuff. He has the ability to throw four pitches for strikes, and I think we're going to talk a little bit more about the usage of pitches and how we put pitches together."

The decision to go with De La Rosa leaves one spot open in the rotation.

Left-hander Robbie Ray is the frontrunner for it, given his 5-12 record and 3.52 ERA last season.

"He's the one who's going to probably have the No. 1 shot at the fifth spot," Hale said. "His ERA was good, but we do need him to be better at getting deeper in games, and that's something he's going to have to show us -- that he can throw less pitches per inning."

It is by no means a sure thing for Ray, though. Archie Bradley, Tyler Wagner and Zack Godley will be among those pushing him for the spot.

"These guys are coming after him, so it's going to be a great fight," Hale said.

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