Sunny day, cloudy outlook for Francis

Thursday is the sunniest day since the Rockies have been in Tucson. Even Jeff Francis was in a happier mood than one would expect.

Of course, his news wasn’t happy at all. He announced that he’ll have surgery on Wednesday to correct the shoulder issues that ruined his 2008 season. Before making that announcement, which means he expects to miss the entire season, Francis was in a corner of the clubhouse laughing and joking with several of the veterans in camp, such as Sal Fasano and Jason Grilli.

“Since the decision has been made, I’ve had peace of mind at least, knowing that,” Francis said.

Rockies reliever Randy Flores had a similar problem last year when he was with the Cardinals. Flores underwent surgery in September, and is doing well — albeit on a modified throwing program this spring. Francis said Flores’ happiness with the surgery and the progress since helped him with his decision.

— Former Rockies star and current front office member Vinny Castilla is managing the Mexican team in the World Baseball Classic. But the two Rockies he invited, left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and infielder Omar Quintanilla — have declined. De La Rosa is a definite rotation member because of Francis’ injury. Quintanilla is in line for a backup infield position, but he has decided to stay in camp to make sure he is seen by manager Clint Hurdle and the coaching staff. It makes sense. Third base coach and infield instructor Rich Dauer, hitting coach Don Baylor and bench coach Jim Tracy, all of whom he’ll have to impress to determine his role, are new to the staff.

— Speaking of the WBC, the Rockies are hoping that Chinese Taipei does not take righty Chin-Lung Lo, who had bone spurs removed from his right elbow after pitching last season at Double-A Tulsa. Lo signed with much fanfare as a 16-year-old in 2001, but his progress has been slow. He could have left the organization this winter, but the Rockies re-signed him as soon as he was eligible for free agency.

“He’s coming along slowly, but he’s matured and he knows how to pitch,” Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson said. “Physically, we look for a big year from him. He’s been here forever, it seems, but we’re not going to give up on him.”

— During the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Rockies personnel studied video of left-handed hitting outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez, a player the club obtained from the Athletics in the Matt Holliday trade. General manager Dan O’Dowd gave a detailed report on Gonzalez’s strengths and weaknesses.

Now Gonzalez, who arrived at camp Thursday, is looking forward to learning what the Rockies know. He was in Denver in late January, but he worked out one day, attended the club’s meet-and-greet with a limited number of season-ticket holders one day, and took a physical. So he hasn’t had a chance to get specifics from the staff on what he needs to improve.

This winter, the Rockies went through great lengths to downplay his acquisition, even though he was considered one of baseball’s top outfield prospects the last few years with the D-Backs, who traded him to the Athletics before last season, and with the Athletics. But whether it was intentional or not, the Rockies issued him No. 5. That was the number Holliday wore while making three All-Star Game trips in purple pinstripes.

“No, I didn’t ask for it,” Gonzalez said. “They just put that number on me. I don’t really care.”

During the winter, Gonzalez smiled and said maybe he could be the next Matt Holliday.

— Catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who did not report with pitchers and catchers because he was mourning the death of a family member, arrived Thursday. The only one who didn’t arrive was infielder Luis A. Gonzalez, who was having visa issues from Venezuela.


I like Jeff Francis but I lost faith in him last season. I had mentioned at the end of last season the possibility of trading him and everyone I talk baseball with thought I was crazy. I like Francis (I grew up in Canada myself), but if he has surgery that will be almost two seasons this guy has been down and once you have surgery, your never the same. A lot of variables in his equasion. I want to see him healthy, but he’s a big paycheck without a whole lot of results. I’m curioius as to your opinion Mr. Harding?…D

I think trading him at the end of last season would have been nuts on the part of the other team, because everyone knew that surgery was a possibility. When healthy, he put together three straight winning seasons — a couple for teams that didn’t finish above .500. But let me ask this: did you lose faith in him forever, or lose faith in an injured Jeff Francis? Those are two different things. There is no reason not to have faith in a healthy Francis, so just get him healthy.

That’s a tough loss. I remember watching him come up his whole career and turning to my father years ago and saying he was going to be something special. Once he could get out of that first inning and into his “zone” as he called it, he was as money as any pitcher the Rockies have ever had. I had high hopes he would be the first twenty game winner for the Rocks and I still do. There is no reason to unload the guy or even forget about him. It’s sad he has to undergo surgery but he is as much as a competitor as any pitcher out there and I hope to see him at the end of the season if possible. If not he’s comeback player of the year 2010 and you heard it here first!

Mr Harding, I’d love to see a healthy Francis. I remember what this kid can do. I’m more of a pro-active person than re-active. So I’m thinking right here right now, not a year from now. Faith I have, but I’m also a realist. Jeff’s good people, but I myself have a bit of a shoulder injury and it’s never been the same. Lets just hope we’re not having this same discussion next year…D

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