SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- He laughs off any comments making too much of his spring success, but early or not, it's hard to argue with a perfect 0.00 ERA after three Cactus League appearances for Jeff Francis.
"The results were really good today, but there are still some things with my fastball command I'm missing on, and I think was able to make up for that with some good off-speed pitches when I was behind in the count," Francis said. "You have to be as hard on yourself as you can and make sure that you're getting ready to do the things that will help you succeed in the season."
After the first two batters of the game, Francis was the only one in the park who was hard on the left-hander. Even the Cubs went down softly, with starting pitcher Scott Feldman scrapping off the only hit in four frames as Francis retired eight in a row to open the game and 11-of-12 in his full outing.
"I got away with a couple in the first inning, definitely," Francis said regarding two drives to the warning track in left from the first two batters he faced. "The first out was a changeup I left in the zone. I think it just cut a bit off the barrel of the bat, just barely missed it. The second out was a ball just down the middle, and I think he just got under it a tiny bit. As a pitcher you know when you get away with a couple like that. You have a second chance to sort of re-focus yourself and make good pitches."
Francis' return to Colorado has been something of a second chance for the No. 1 Draft pick who never made an Opening Day start, but whose 17 wins in 2007 tied a franchise record at the time and propelled him to be the Game 1 starter in the Rockies' only World Series appearance. After a year and a half in Kansas City, he came back to Colorado in June '12 and is already in fine form a week into March.
"Jeff looked great," manager Walt Weiss said. "I've seen Jeff really good. I was around since we drafted him. He does what we're looking for. He pitches at the bottom of the zone, he's got a good changeup, which is really important, not only in our place, but in general. A changeup changes an at-bat for a hitter. And he commands it very well. He knows what he's doing. Kind of reminds me of Tommy Glavine. I played behind Tommy for years and years, and there are some similarities in the approach to pitching."
Francis might laugh again at the comparison, but for a Cubs lineup that found him unflappable, there was nothing funny in facing the 32-year-old Canadian native as he secured his spot in the Rockies rotation.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less