De La Rosa's rough start sinks Royals
Right-hander's first outing since July 31 not one to remember
DETROIT -- Jorge De La Rosa was fine in the bullpen. However, it didn't translate into a productive start in his return to the rotation on Sunday afternoon against the Tigers.
"He just didn't carry his warmups into the game," pitching coach Bob McClure said. "He got out of whack there and just couldn't right it."
Making his first start since July 31, De La Rosa went just one inning, allowed four runs and took the loss in a 7-2 setback at Comerica Park.
"There wasn't much effort to hit it, which means that it wasn't down in the zone or on the edges," manager Buddy Bell said. "It was just in the middle of the plate most of the time."
Bell, a former Tigers manager, received a nice ovation during the game from the fans, as Sunday marked the last game he will manage in the Motor City. He will resign at the end of the season to spend time with his family.
"I thought that was much appreciated," Bell said. "The people around here know how much I feel about them."
However, De La Rosa couldn't help his manager enjoy a win. The left-hander didn't even reach his pitch count of 60-65 pitches. Instead, he threw 42 pitches, 27 for strikes, in his one inning. He will pitch in the Sept. 30 season finale against the Indians.
"It was bad," was all De La Rosa said of his outing.
Luke Hochevar and Leo Nunez delivered two impressive long relief appearances after De La Rosa left the game. Hochevar, who has allowed one earned run in 9 2/3 Major League innings, worked 3 1/3 innings, while Nunez threw the final 11 outs.
"They did outstanding," McClure said.
McClure has wanted De La Rosa to trust his stuff and consistently pound the strike zone. On Sunday, De La Rosa was in the strike zone -- he walked just one batter and threw 65 percent strikes -- but he couldn't harness his emotions.
"You have to still be aggressive, but you have to be able to control your body at the same time," McClure said. "It is just something that he has to continue to work on, with being emotional and settling himself down to make pitches. I don't really know the answer with how to get him to do that other than you just keep trying and only control what you can control."
De La Rosa ran into immediate trouble in the first. After Cameron Maybin flied out, Placido Polanco singled to left field and Ryan Raburn followed with an RBI double to left. After a wild pitch, Carlos Guillen hit De La Rosa's 19th pitch for a single to center and a 2-0 Detroit lead.
"It is just one pitch at a time," McClure said. "I think sometimes the picture is so big for him that it is just overwhelming, instead of being small and saying, 'Hey, I can control this next pitch that I am going to throw, get the ball back and then control the next pitch I am going to throw, and then get the ball back.' I think when things start to get a little haywire, you start to see the culmination of 'Here we go again.'
And that's just what happened. Marcus Thames followed with a homer that clanged off the left-field foul pole for a 4-0 lead. De La Rosa evaded further damage after he walked Mike Hessman, striking out Brandon Inge and coaxing a popup from Mike Rabelo. However, the three batters soaked 21 pitches from De La Rosa, who was removed after the inning, marking his shortest start of the season.
"Everything feels [physically] good, but my command is not real good," De La Rosa said. "I was over the plate with all of my pitches today."
Hochevar kept the Royals in the game with another impressive performance. He was nicked for an unearned run on two errors in the second inning and allowed his first earned run of his Major League career on a third-inning homer to Thames. Other than that, Hochevar struck out three, didn't walk a batter and needed just 47 pitches to cover his 10 outs. Overall, Hochevar has posted a 0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 Major League innings.
Hochevar, a sinker/slider pitcher in college, has developed his four-seam fastball and curveball in the Minors this year. The curveball paid dividends again Sunday, as Hochevar threw it several times.
"I think that is a pitch that he needs to continue to work on for strikes and change his eye level," McClure said. "Just like [Brian] Bannister, when he started to get his curveball going, it just kind of changed everything. You can change the eye level. I think Hoch is going to be the same way."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.