De La Rosa strong in final Minor League outing

De La Rosa strong in final Minor League outing

De La Rosa strong in final Minor League outing
SAN DIEGO -- Jorge De La Rosa's long comeback trail from Tommy John surgery may finally be winding its way back to the big leagues in the very near future. De La Rosa pitched for Class A Modesto in Game 3 of the California League Championship series Saturday, taking the loss despite yielding just three runs -- one on a leadoff homerun -- in five innings of work.

The Nuts ultimately dropped the contest, 3-2, in what was the decisive game of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Lancaster Jethawks. But while the rest of his Nuts teammates have likely played their final games of the 2012 season, De La Rosa's strong start has the Rockies' encouraged that he will be able to return to the club and pitch in the final weeks of the season.

"Only one walk and six strikeouts pitching in a ballpark that -- my understanding is -- is way beyond hitter-friendly," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. "I think you have to feel pretty encouraged about what it is that he did."

De La Rosa had Tommy John surgery in June 2011, and has seen his comeback stalled at various points this season. But this time, it looks like De La Rosa is finally on track for a return -- albeit a brief one -- at the end of the season.

"Once he gets back here with us and medical checks out of the way, [team doctor Keith Duggan] wants to check him out, we'll map something else out for him, and it will certainly have to be at this level," Tracy said.

"I would say there's a strong chance that yes, he will start a game for us between now and season's end."

If and when De La Rosa does return, Tracy said it will definitely be as a starter, rather than in whatever relief opportunities emerge, in order to best monitor his reintegration into the rigors of big-league pitching.

"There will be no thought of this guy coming into a game after it's started," Tracy said. "When we say De La Rosa is going to pitch on such and such a day, it will be as a starter. It must be a regimented program where he knows and we know he's going to open his eyes in the morning, have his breakfast at such and such a time, do whatever he does beforehand. Completely controlled."

That structure, Tracy said, will help the squad ensure De La Rosa doesn't re-injure the arm.

"With what it is that he's coming back from from an injury standpoint, there is nothing to mess with there," Tracy said.

The lefty is 54-49 in his career in 188 games, 126 starts. Prior to his injury in 2011, he made ten starts and was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 59 innings of work.