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News » Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch 2009-02-27

Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch 2009-02-27

Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch 2009-02-27
Left-hander Jeff Francis had exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Feb. 25 in Denver to repair a labrum tear. Recovery time is generally six to 12 months, depending on the severity of the injury, but Francis isn't counting on pitching this season.

"It's obviously a bad time of year to be making a decision like this, but it's a necessary one," Francis said. "I'm not going to be the pitcher I know I can be (without surgery), and I wasn't last year. And from what I saw on the tape, I wasn't even close."

Francis threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Feb. 17, mixing in fastballs, curveballs and changeups, and said it felt like "about 75." The following day, Francis looked at the tape of that session, which offered convincing proof that things weren't right. "It was like, 'What am I doing? What am I trying to work through?'" Francis said. "My arm angle was wrong. I had no arm speed, no power. I was shocked at what I saw."

The surgery was the last step for Francis but one the Rockies saw coming.

"I had hoped to pitch," Francis said. "That's why we've been delaying this so long, because I hoped to rehab it. I wasn't expecting to be ready for Opening Day or anything, but to at least be able to be out there and contribute. I think at this point, you look at what we've done and what we've tried. I think that this is the next step."

General manager Dan O'Dowd said, "We knew, in all likelihood, it was headed in this direction. Jeff had to get to the point (of accepting the need for surgery). We held out hope he would be OK, but every time (trainer Keith Dugger) got him going through the program, he would have to shut it down. So we knew there was something in the shoulder that the tests didn't show."

Francis tied the franchise record with 17 wins in 2007, helping the Rockies reach the World Series, but the hard truth is the Rockies will be replacing a pitcher who went 4-10 with a 5.01 ERA last year. Shoulder inflammation put Francis on the disabled list from June 29 until Aug. 6. He then made seven starts and went 1-2 with a 3.50 ERA, but his shoulder continued to bother him, and he didn't pitch after Sept. 12.

TOP CANDIDATE TO SURPRISE: OF Carlos Gonzalez, acquired from the A's in the November trade for LF Matt Holliday, is a talented 23-year-old who has been traded twice and is eager to settle in with the Rockies.

Gonzalez must show he can make steady contact in spring training after he had an alarming number of strikeouts last year. But in winter ball in his native Venezuela, where he played a total of 39 games, Gonzalez said he adopted the mind-set of a leadoff hitter with two strikes and did a better job of reaching base.

He has options, so the Rockies could easily send him to Class AAA, but Gonzalez, who began his career in the Diamondbacks organization and was traded to the A's in the December 2007 deal for RHP Dan Haren, seems poised to find a home with the Rockies and leave a good impression in camp, even if he falls short of making the Opening Day roster.

TOP CANDIDATE TO DISAPPOINT: RHP Josh Fogg, who pitched for the Rockies in 2006-07, will attempt to return after signing a minor league contract. Fogg, 32, will compete for the fifth starter's job, following a horrible season with the Reds. He will need a very good spring to open the season with the Rockies. Fogg is a prototypical back-of-the-rotation starter who competes to the utmost but has very ordinary stuff. It's easy to envision him scuffling in the spring and opening the season at Class AAA Colorado Springs, where he has agreed to go if another big-league job doesn't materialize.

AUTHORITY FIGURES: Manager Clint Hurdle, who is entering the final year of his contract, is 516-597 since taking over the Rockies on April 26, 2002. He has vowed the emphasis in spring training will be to get players ready for the regular season and not to keep them from getting hurt, which Hurdle said was more the case last year. Regulars are expected to play more in exhibition games and easily get more than 60 spring at-bats, and Hurdle intends to incorporate some situational drills he used in the minors to hone the players' execution and attention to fundamentals.

Only pitching coach Bob Apodaca and first base coach Glenallen Hill return from Hurdle's 2008 coaching staff. New additions include bench coach Jim Tracy -- Hurdle's likely successor if the team stumbles early and the decision is made to fire him -- hitting coach Don Baylor, who was the Rockies' first manager from 1993-98, bullpen coach Jim Wright and third base coach Rich Dauer.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: February 27, 2009

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