De La Rosa learns how to pitch, not just throw

Rockies lefty says studying Lee, Pettitte after TJ surgery helped immensely

De La Rosa learns how to pitch, not just throw

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies lefty Jorge De La Rosa once could throw his way to victory. Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2011, he's learned by studying star left-handers of the past that he can be just as successful thinking his way to W's.

De La Rosa, the Rockies' career leader in wins (78), home wins (48) and strikeouts (788), was 39-26 with a 4.38 ERA and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 495 2/3 innings his first four seasons (2008-11). After the surgery and a limited comeback in 2012, De La Rosa is 39-24 with a slightly lower ERA at 3.92, but also a lower strikeouts-per-nine rate of 6.9.

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De La Rosa, who turns 35 on April 5, said part of his rehab and recovery was spent studying.

"I watched Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte -- I liked both those guys a lot," said De La Rosa, who went 4 2/3 innings against the Athletics in Tuesday's 6-2 victory and gave up his only runs on a two-run homer by his final batter, Matt Chapman.

Before the injury, De La Rosa relied on a 92-93-mph fastball. Before 2011, the year when he was injured, his fastball useage per season ranged from 54 percent to 62.3 percent. He also used his slider up to 23.5 percent in 2009.

After returning to health, the fastball velocity is down slightly -- 91.4 mph last season. What's up is his use of an 87-88-mph cutter and a split-finger changeup that's in use 27-37 percent of the time, which varies from year to year.

"I learned how to pitch," De La Rosa said. "Before, I just threw the ball. I used to have a really good arm. That year when I was hurt, I watched a lot of video and learned how to pitch."

Of course, he hasn't taken everything from those pitchers. De La Rosa is a quiet guy off the mound, where at times his anger can show.

Of Lee he said, "I wish I could learn to have the composure like him."

De La Rosa's fire isn't the impediment it was during younger years, but he says it's something he still must watch.

"I still [get mad]," De La Rosa said.

But that's during the regular season. He minimized the anger after Chapman's homer Tuesday.

"A little bit, but it's Spring Training," De La Rosa said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.