Rockies’ touted phenom Francis to start spring training game
TUCSON, Ariz. – Jeff Francis continues his audition with the Colorado Rockies this week, even though the judgment phase might already be over.The highly touted pitching prospect is scheduled to start Wednesday in a Cactus League game against the San Francisco Giants. Though the Rockies hoped Francis would pitch his way into the rotation, his status at the opening of spring training was far from a lock.With the regular season less than two weeks away, Francis appears certain to make his first Opening Day roster.”I came here trying to get ready for the season,” Francis said. “Wherever I find myself at the end of the camp, I’m trying to get myself ready for that. If I don’t make the team out of camp, it’s not the only chance for the year. If I can go out and pitch well during the year, I’ll get more chances down the road.”Francis has impressed the Rockies with his guile as much as his fastball since being selected in the first round (ninth overall) of the 2002 draft. He turned in perhaps the most impressive minor league campaign in club history last summer, going a combined 16-3 with a 2.21 ERA at Class AA Tulsa and Class AAA Colorado Springs.Francis went 3-2 with a 5.15 ERA in seven late-season starts with the Rockies last year and appeared to get more confident and knowledgeable with each outing. That process has continued this spring.”He’s a very heady young man,” said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, whose team enjoyed its only off-day of the spring on Tuesday.”He’s a very honest self-evaluator. He learns from every outing. He’s a very tough critic. Every time he takes the ball he has a game plan he’s following.”Francis has had a solid spring thus far, but the uncertain status of Shawn Chacon, who has missed two consecutive starts with a sore hamstring, has clouded the potential rotation behind Joe Kennedy and Jason Jennings.With the fifth starter spot still up for grabs, Francis seems destined to fall into the third slot. He hasn’t done anything to hurt his chances on the mound, compiling a 1-0 record with a 1.29 earned-run average in two major league starts.Francis gave up three earned runs in five innings in a game against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, but Chicago also used some of its regular hitters. Francis still recorded five strikeouts without a walk.”They way it has been so far is it’s been one more inning each start,” Francis said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work (Wednesday). They haven’t said anything, but I would assume they would try to stretch me as far as I can go.”
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