De La Rosa gets Opening Day assignment

Left-hander is Rockies' career leader in wins and strikeouts

De La Rosa gets Opening Day assignment

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss did away with splits and strategies this time and named left-hander Jorge De La Rosa his 2016 Opening Day starter, with a simple explanation:

"Just going with our guy," Weiss said after De La Rosa went six innings in a 7-6 Cactus League victory over the Reds on Friday. "He's been our guy for a long time."

De La Rosa, who turns 35 on April 5 -- the day after the regular season opens against the D-backs at Chase Field -- is the Rockies' career leader in wins (78) and strikeouts (877). He will be making his second Opening Day start in three years.

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The strategy is different from the one Weiss used last year, when he opened with righty Kyle Kendrick at Milwaukee. The thought was the home opener was a bigger deal, and that decision went to De La Rosa -- who wasn't available because of a left groin strain suffered late in the spring.

There would have been some justification for a different decision. De La Rosa holds the club record for home wins (48) and has a 48-16 home record. Also, De La Rosa is 1-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 10 career starts at Chase Field

But maybe he is on a roll. His win came in his last start there, when he gave up two runs and five hits, with six strikeouts over six innings in a 6-4 victory on July 5.

Last season, De La Rosa went 9-7 with a 4.17 ERA in 26 starts. After shaking off some early difficulty, De La Rosa was solid until the Rockies shut him down in August because of Achilles tendon soreness. But De La Rosa healed, and acted as a leader to the pitchers during offseason work at the club's complex in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"He's been healthy, which is a good thing," Weiss said. "He's pitched with a lot of nagging injuries over the last few years. That's a good sign."

De La Rosa's March/April opening outings have been iffy of late.

He beat the D-backs with 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a home victory on April 2, 2011. Tommy John surgery kept him off the mound until September 2012, and then in 2013, he lasted 4 1/3 innings and wound up with a no-decision in a Rockies victory at Milwaukee. On March 31, 2014, at Miami in his first Opening Day start, he yielded five runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings while being tagged with the loss, and he lost last April 20 to the D-backs by yielding nine runs (seven earned) in two innings.

In past seasons, De La Rosa has rounded into form by May. Interestingly, his outings seemed sharper after one of the nagging injuries -- back, finger, groin -- has cropped up. The ability to excel through pain and difficulty is one of De La Rosa's endearing traits.

For now, De La Rosa still reports feeling good, and feels ready for the regular season. He is 2-0 with a 5.09 ERA during a spring that has seen him work on pitches. He gave up four runs on nine hits, including a Brandon Phillips home run in the second inning, against the Reds on Friday.

"I threw more two-seamers, and it worked -- it made for a lot of ground balls," De La Rosa said. "I tried to throw my curveball and changeup for a strike. You have to keep working, since it's Spring Training. You have to build your pitches up. That's what I tried to do today.

"I'm ready."

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.