Jorge De La Rosa aims to return from Tommy John surgery in June

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Rockies’ pitching coach Bob Apodaca said last month that the club hopes to have Jorge De La Rosa back from Tommy John surgery in July, but the rehabbing southpaw is aiming to come back even sooner.

De La Rosa resumed facing live hitters in recent weeks and threw 45 pitches Tuesday in a simulated game. While he still has several minor league rehab starts in front of him, he told Troy Renck of the Denver Post yesterday that he is optimistic about his chances of returning in June.

“Of course I am watching!” De La Rosa said from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., on how he was spending Friday night. “The (simulated game) went well. And (Friday) I threw an aggressive bullpen. I really think I can be back in June.”

De La Rosa posted a 3.51 ERA over 10 starts before going under the knife last June. He is owed $10 million this season while his contract includes an $11 million player option for 2013.

Noah Syndergaard scratched with a “tired arm”

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Mets manager Terry Collins says that he has scratched Noah Syndergaard, who was supposed to start this afternoon’s game against the Braves. In his place will go Matt Harvey.

Syndergaard, Collins says, has “tired arm.” But also says he has some discomfort in his right biceps. He will have an MRI, but Syndergaard says it’s not serious and that he could pitch as soon as Sunday. Collins says this is an abundance-of-caution type thing, saying “we can’t take a chance on this guy.” Which is true.

The Mets ace is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26 innings. He has walked no one this year. Not a soul.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.