Rockies finalize Francis' extension

Rockies sign Francis to four-year extension

DENVER -- Rockies left-handed pitcher Jeff Francis hasn't lost the Canadian accent, but he's Denver through and through. This week's cold snap notwithstanding, he could qualify for a spot on the Chamber of Commerce in spreading the news about the mile-high sunshine.

"It's a great city. I couldn't' believe how warm it was in November," he said on Thursday.

He's even adopted the Colorado Avalanche as his hockey team, after growing up in British Columbia. Well, to a point.

"I'm definitely a fan," he said, "but I can't root for them against the Canucks."

And why not be excited? On Thursday, the Rockies announced he had passed his physical -- cementing his four-year, $13.25 million contract, with a club option worth $7 million (it could rise to $8 million based on innings pitched or a top-three finish in Cy Young Award voting) for 2011.

Francis, 25, has led the Rockies in victories the last two seasons -- his only full seasons in the Majors. Since being called up in late 2004, Francis is 30-25 with a 4.91 ERA in 72 starts. He already has more wins than any lefty in the history of a club that before the 2001 season signed left-handers Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle for a total of 13 years and $172.5 million.

Francis' contract is similar to what right-hander Aaron Cook signed before last season in that it takes care of all of the arbitration years and the club can cover his first year of free agency with the option. The Rockies' option on Cook is for next season, at the end of a two-year, $4.55 million deal.

"It is an honor for me that they wanted me for four years, not to mention the security that the contract offers," said Francis, who had gone to Toronto after previous seasons but became a full-time Denver-area resident this offseason.

The Rockies have had difficulty locking up some of their other young standouts.

Right-hander Jason Jennings and left-handed closer Brian Fuentes can become free agents after next season, and they and the club have made little progress toward an extension. The club is resigned to year-to-year arbitration discussions with left fielder Matt Holliday, and any talk of a contract covering third baseman Garrett Atkins' arbitration years is in its infancy.

"I think a lot of it is a personal decision, and this was the best thing for my situation," he said. "I also hope we can keep a lot of us together, because there is the opportunity to do some awesome things."

Francis' goal is to perform with more consistency. After going 14-12 with a 5.68 ERA as a rookie in 2005, he went 13-11 and posted the fourth-lowest ERA in club history, 4.16, in 2006.

"I think there was a lot of improvement over my rookie year," Francis said. "I went deeper into games, and my innings [199 in 32 starts] reflected that. My strikeouts were about the same, but my innings were up and that, for me, was a big step."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.