Last season, De La Rosa was healthy enough to pitch a full season after being affected for two years by an elbow injury, but his arm hadn't returned to full strength. So, De La Rosa used guile rather than power and went 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts. But it wasn't until the end of the season that he could push his fastball to 94 mph.
This year, De La Rosa (0-2, 9.69 ERA in three starts) is registering 95 mph and averaging 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings, and at times, he's looked dominant. But he's also giving up 8.3 hits per nine and has surrendered three home runs. It took him all last season to give up 11 homers.
De La Rosa might have to try using a softer touch Wednesday night, when he makes his next start against the Padres at Petco Park.
"I started pitching more," De La Rosa said, recalling the good ol' weak-armed days of last year. "I didn't have my fastball last year. I just relied on location. That's what I did last year. This year I've thrown harder because of the way I feel. I'm going to check my video from last year and start pitching."
Overcoming his slump soon is an important issue for the Rockies. The bullpen has thrown 43 2/3 innings in the first 13 games this season. The only National League club with more bullpen innings in the same number of games was the Dodgers with 48.
The current rotation is without lefty Brett Anderson, who suffered a broken left index finger Saturday, and it'll take 4-6 weeks to heal from surgery and time after that to build up for a return. Righty Jhoulys Chacin hasn't pitched for the club yet because of a right shoulder strain he suffered at the start of Spring Training, although he should be back at the end of this month or early May.
It's a bad time for a pitcher of De La Rosa's ilk to slump.
"No matter who's in the rotation, I have to do my job to try to win the game for these guys," he said. "Nothing's going to change that."
Rockies manager Walt Weiss said, "He was one of the best pitchers in the National League last year. That's why I have confidence he can turn this around.
"It's gotten away from him quickly, but if not in all of the starts, in two of the three he was dominant up until he had the rough inning."