Now Commenting On:

Francis looking strong in spring, serving as mentor


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies lefty Jeff Francis' stats are close to spotless through his first three Cactus League outings (two starts). He has given up no runs or walks and has almost as many strikeouts (five) as opponents have hits (six).

But Francis, who will start against the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, doesn't exactly see perfection.

"I look more at execution," Francis said. "The results might've been good so far, but there are a few pitches I've gotten away with. Guys have hit a few balls in the air and they've ended up in mitts. I evaluate myself more on the amount I hit the target. There's a lot of improvement I can make there."

This detailed, even-keeled approach to his job is one of the reasons the Rockies look to Francis, 32, as a leader to the many starters vying for jobs who are in the beginning stages of their big league careers. Francis, who was the Rockies' ace during their run to the World Series in 2007, before shoulder injuries put him out of action for part of 2008, all of 2009 and some of 2010, said the role has been an adjustment. Francis pitched for the Royals in 2011 and was in the Minors with the Reds when the Rockies signed him in June to bolster a young and unprepared staff.

"I'm comfortable with it, for sure," Francis said. "It was new to me last year. I'm still learning how to be in that role, but I definitely don't walk around like I know what to do. I learn from everybody, just like they might learn from me. I have a lot of experience, but there are things I'm trying to get better at, things I'm trying to learn."

Francis said his changeup against left-handed hitters and his fastball command need work. Even before the shoulder issues, Francis relied on location more than velocity. He doesn't throw as hard as he used to, so deception and location are at an even higher premium.

"It's a pursuit of consistency," he said. "There are a lot of things that I do well. It's just a matter of executing them consistently, from game to game. It's the ability to spot up my fastball and do that every time. If for some reason I struggle, I'm finding ways to get people out."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boys and Girls Club of America

©2014 MLBAM, LP. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions. Use of the Website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy (updated May 24, 2013).

View MLB.com in English | En Español