NEW YORK -- The Rockies need a frontline pitcher to enhance their hopes after the All-Star break. They received some good news Friday from their best possible candidate to assume that role.
Jeff Francis, whose struggles through left shoulder inflammation forced him to pitch below his capabilities before the Rockies placed him on the disabled list July 3, threw from 120 feet without pain at Shea Stadium.
Francis will follow with a 40-pitch bullpen session at Shea on Saturday. If he comes through that healthy, the club will proceed, possibly with a Minor League rehab assignment for at least one start.
While trying to pitch through the injury, Francis displayed an inconsistent arm slot, his velocity was up and down and his pinpoint control was nonexistent. Francis said the location was the problem.
"Whether I throw 90 or 85 mph, if I can get people out, I'm happy," Francis said. "When you look at the balls I was throwing, they were cutting and I was missing by a whole plate-width, which doesn't happen.
"It was just my arm trying to save itself. If there's a spot where it was going to feel pain, my arm was trying to save itself."
After winning 17 regular-season games and two in the postseason last year, Francis was 3-7 with a 5.67 ERA before going on the DL. All that won't matter if he leads a comeback during the second half.
"Any expectations we had, we haven't lived up to already," Francis said. "I think I've got to come back, get healthy and do my job. I think that's the approach everybody's going to take. If everybody does their job, then we'll be in a good spot."
First baseman Todd Helton, out with back problems that create leg pain, was given an epidural on Tuesday. Trainer Keith Dugger said Helton is limited to walking on a treadmill.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.