The Rockies have moved left-hander Jorge De La Rosa from the starting rotation to the bullpen in the wake of his 2016 struggles, manager Walt Weiss told reporters, including Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. He’ll be replaced by fellow lefty Chris Rusin.
Weiss said that the move offers De La Rosa an opportunity “to get right” on the heels of an 11.14 ERA through his first six starts of the season. De La Rosa has racked up 29 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings this season, but he’s also allowed 39 hits, issued 15 walks and hit three batters in that time as well. Of the 39 hits he’s surrendered, seven have left the yard. General manager Jeff Bridich had some fairly pointed comments regarding De La Rosa’s start to the season. Via Saunders, the Colorado GM offered the following take on his struggling Opening Day starter:
“It’s now two months of struggle, whether it’s been up here or in the down in the minors for rehabilitation. He’s had one good game, right? One good game that you could say is representative of what we know about Jorge De La Rosa. That’s just not good enough right now. … We have other guys who have earned the right to give us a chance to win every fifth day. Our goal right now is for him to go the to bullpen, settle in, and help us win games out of the bullpen.”
De La Rosa, 35, is in the second season of a two-year, $25MM contract extension that he inked to remain with the Rockies back in August of 2014. De La Rosa opted to take that deal rather than test the waters of free agency, making him a rarity among pitchers, as few voluntarily sign on for additional time calling Coors Field their home. De La Rosa, however, has fared relatively well in his time at Coors, recording a career 4.29 ERA in 522 1/3 innings there (including this season’s struggles). As Saunders points out, he’s currently the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (79), and he holds that distinction in total strikeouts as well (906).
The implications for De La Rosa stretch beyond his immediate role with the team, as well. He’s slated to hit the open market this winter, and a demotion from the Rockies’ rotation certainly does little to build an enticing case for himself as a rotation option on the open market. While De La Rosa will be 36 early next season, he entered the 2016 campaign coming off a very steady three-year stretch in Colorado: 501 innings of 3.92 ERA ball with 6.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate. While those numbers don’t immediately stand out, they’re impressive for a pitcher that spends half his time at Coors Field. De La Rosa’s 2013-15 performance is 11 percent better than the league average pitcher when adjusting for his home ball park, per Fangraphs’ ERA-, and it’s 14 percent better than an average starter in the estimation of ERA+. De La Rosa’s age notwithstanding, another solid season out of the Rockies’ rotation could’ve positioned him for a nice payday this winter, whether via another extension in Colorado or with a new team. However, his opportunity to rebuild that stock will be suppressed by this change in role. Even if he finds his way back into the rotation and returns to form, it’s tough to imagine that the ugly start to the season hasn’t already impacted his offseason earning capacity.