One day into Spring Training, Jeff Francis insists he is old news.
Francis, who missed last year because of shoulder surgery, was one of the first pitchers to throw a bullpen session at Friday’s initial workout for Rockies pitchers and catchers. It went well. He and the Rockies got as much out of it as possible when a guy is throwing to a catcher, with no hitter.
Francis was nice about it, but clear: He didn’t want to be interviewed after every throwing session. He realizes that a guy who won 17 games in 2007 and has battled issues since is going to be watched closely. But there’s plenty of time for intense scrutiny, under game conditions.
“It feels good,” Francis said. “My arm felt great. I’m just working on my delivery, trying to get more comfortable with it. I’ll try to get more work on the mound without a ball every day, try to get used to my delivery.
“It feels like my arm again. It’s not me overcompensating for anything. I’m not hesitating with any pain. My arm is doing what it’s there to do. It’s just a matter of getting more comfortable mechanically, throwing the ball more efficiently.”
The usual practice when a team begins anew is for the manager to address players to set tones and themes. Jim Tracy, in his first Spring Training as the Rockies’ manager, has spoken before about wanting the team to embrace expectations. The Rockies made the playoffs last year and are a threat to win the National League West this time.
Tracy recounted his speech for the media after Friday’s first workout for pitchers and catchers.
“We came here to be good. I didn’t mince any words with that. We’re here to be good, because we like our team, we like what we know how to do. We’re trying to perfect some of those things. We’re not going to be afraid of an aberration. It’s just that simple.
“As I said to them, what you don’t want is when the pulse or the thought process goes from, ‘Hey, they were really good last year,” to you disappear and they talk about the fact, ‘Well, they were just an aberration.’ That’s an insult in my opinion. I don’t want to be there, and I don’t want these players to have to go through something like that.
“So what do you do about it? You come out here and you put your mindset and your focus where it needs to be, and you get better than you were the year before.”
Here are some early Spring Training thoughts:
— Lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who led the Rockies in wins last season with 16, can become a free agent at season’s end. De La Rosa said his ambition is to have a strong year to earn the right to stay with Colorado.
— Left-hander Jeff Francis not only is healthy after missing last year with shoulder problems, but he’s actually ahead of many of the other pitchers because of the intense offseason work. Francis faced hitters in the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago.
— Righty Greg Reynolds, the team’s top pick in the 2006 Draft, underwent surgery after the season to correct an issue with his labrum. Almost amazingly so, Reynolds is healthy enough to begin the spring without restrictions. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca said Reynolds’ motion — which the club believes was at the root of his troubles — has cleaned up considerably.
— The Rockies will have 32 pitchers in camp. Righty Taylor Buchholz, who underwent Tommy John elbow ligament transfer surgery last season and hopes to return to the Majors in June, is the only pitcher not healthy enough to be a factor.
Apodaca said right-handed reliever Casey Weathers, the top pick in 2007, was not invited to Major League camp so he could have a little more time to make sure his elbow is healthy. Weathers missed last season because of Tommy John surgery.
— Lefty Christian Friedrich, the team’s top choice in 2008, said being invited to this camp gives him the opportunity to closely study Francis’ delivery.
Rockies pitchers and catchers officially reported to camp today. The team will conduct its final physicals on Friday morning and should be working out at Hi Corbett Field at around 1 p.m., and finishing around 4 p.m. For those of you in Tucson, there is construction around the park. They’re building a walking track. Nonetheless, you can work around it.
We’re still waiting to see if there’s going to be an addition. The Rockies have made an offer of a Minor League contract to former Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne, but there is still talking to do. The Dodgers are believed to be in the mix for Gagne. Rockies manager Jim Tracy is a believer in Gagne, who has battled shoulder and back issues in recent years.