DENVER -- Left-hander Jeff Francis was one of the few pitchers drafted and developed by the Rockies who became a solid winner. Now, he has a chance to join another group of pitchers who found success pitching at Coors Field.
Veterans such as left-handers Shawn Estes and Darren Oliver and right-hander Kevin Millwood came to Colorado when their opportunities dwindled. All pitched well enough to get back on the big league radar.
Francis' attempt to revive his career began on Saturday with his start against the Angels. He was 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Louisville and threw a complete-game shutout last Sunday against Durham before he asked the Reds, Louisville's parent club, for his release so he could seek a big league opportunity.
Fans will definitely see a different Francis from the one who went 17-9 in the 2007 World Series year. Shoulder problems, which ended up costing him the 2009 season and derailing his career, have robbed him of low-90s velocity. But the know-how remains. He went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts for the Royals last year. But he proved durable, throwing 183 innings and going at least six innings in all but 11 starts.
"We get a guy that has quite a history [in] this organization," Tracy said. "When I say he's not the same pitcher that he was back in 2007, the biggest difference being he doesn't throw 92, 93 mph anymore. That is the only difference. There is still the pitchability. There's still an incredible amount of know-how, and there's an opportunity for him to have a chance to succeed. If we're fortunate to see that happen, I think the lessons learned for some of our younger guys can be spectacular."
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki welcomed the signing.
"Anytime you bring in a guy that is such a big piece in what we've done here, such as starting Game 1 of the  World Series ... he's a veteran pitcher," Tulowitzki said. "We have a lot of young guys on the staff, and he's a guy that knows how to pitch and he can teach some of these young guys some things.
"Jeff is a great guy. Since Day 1, he's been one of my favorite teammates. He's someone that never has a bad day. He enjoys really coming to work. He's someone who represents what the Rockies are about."