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AP - Sports

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Jorge De La Rosa is happy again.

''I'm always happy when I start throwing baseballs again,'' the Colorado pitcher said.

While De La Rosa wasn't pleased that the Rockies lost 4-3 to Cincinnati Monday night at Salt River Fields the big-picture outlook on the upcoming season give him reason to smile.

De La Rosa missed most of the past two seasons after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow in May 2011. He underwent Tommy John surgery and didn't pitch again until September of last season. He started three games, but made it out of the fourth inning only once and was shelled for 11 earned runs on 17 hits.

With a new season upon him, the 31-year-old left-hander appears to be ready to return as a mainstay in the Rockies rotation - De La Rosa started 75 games from 2008-10 for Colorado.

De La Rosa pitched five solid innings against the Reds, his third good outing in a row. He allowed one earned run two hits and two walks. He totaled four strikeouts, twice fanning Cincinnati slugger Jay Bruce.

''Changeup, slider were good,'' De La Rosa said. ''Location was much better than before.''

De La Rosa faced the minimum three batters in all but one of his innings. He stumbled in the third when he gave up a leadoff walk to Zach Cozart and RBI double to Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo.

De La Rosa has pitched well lately. In his past 10 2-3 innings, he has held opponents to two earned runs, eight hits and six walks, while tallying 12 strikeouts.

Through strength and speed training, De La Rosa believes he's returning to form that saw him go 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA before getting hurt in 2011.

''I'm getting better every time, better and better,'' he said. ''First two (outings) were normal for me because I wasn't pitching for a long time. I made adjustments, last two and this one. It's working.''

Before the game, Rockies manager Walt Weiss said Jhoulys Chacin will be the team's opening day starter when Colorado plays at Milwaukee April 1 and Jeff Francis will start the home opener against San Diego on April 5.

Chacin was named the starter a day after he allowed four earned runs on nine hits, no walks and one strikeout in 4 2-3 innings against San Francisco.

Chacin, a 25-year-old right-hander, started 14 games last season for Colorado, posting a 3-5 record and 4.43 ERA.

De La Rosa said he hasn't been told where he'll be slotted in the Rockies' rotation.

''I don't care if I'm first, second, (fifth),'' he said. ''I'll be OK.I just want to pitch, that's all I want.''

NOTES: Reds starter Bronson Arroyo allowed one earned run on five hits, two walks and a strikeout in 5 2-3 innings., recording his first win of the spring. . RF Jay Bruce hit his third home run of the spring and struck out twice. . Reliever J.J. Hoover struck out all four batters he faced. . CF Billy Hamilton tripled in his first at-bat. . Reds 2B Brandon Phillips was scratched from the lineup and given the day off to rest after returning from the World Baseball Classic. He was replaced by Cesar Izturis. . Colorado CF Dexter Fowler homered in his first at-bat. . Colorado assigned RHP Mike McClendon, LHP Nick Schmidt, C Jose Gonzalez, INF Tommy manzella, INF Henry Wrigley ad OF Kent Matthes to its minor league camp. . On Tuesday, Juan Nicasio will start for Colorado, which plays at Kansas City, and Homer Bailey will start for Cincinnati, which hosts the Chicago White Sox.

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