Tracy sees what he needs to see from Francis

Rockies lefty Jeff Francis’ first Cactus League appearance on Friday — his first time in a Major League game in 18 months — wasn’t pretty. Luckily for manager Jim Tracy, he didn’t see it. The Rockies used a split-squad that day, and Tracy went to Tempe, Ariz., while Francis was at Scottsdale, Ariz.

Francis, who struggled in 2008 and missed 2009 because of a shoulder injury that required arthroscopic surgery, gave up four runs in two innings, and struggled because his stride toward home plate was too long.

“The other day in Scottsdale was the first time he’d gone out there competitively in a long time,” Tracy said. “But let him do his thing, then take him back into the laboratory, make some adjustments, re-tune him a little bit, then send him back out there again. This is a brilliant pupil you’re working with.”

But Francis adjusted, and did much better during three scoreless innings at the start of Wednesday’s 5-0 Rockies victory over the Royals at Hi Corbett Field.

One interesting change. Before his first outing, Francis looked good in bullpen work but couldn’t carry that effecvtiveness into the game. This time, his warmup wasn’t a precursor to his game performance.

“I had a horrible bullpen,” Francis said. “I almost hit Dexter [Fowler, the Rockies’ center fielder] in the knee. But how many times do we have a bullpen that’s brutal but it’s there in the game? I struck the first guy out, and it was a confidence-builder.

“I tried to do a lot of work on the mound, even without a ball, just trying to work on my mechanics. I’ll keep doing those things.”

Francis’ struggles against the Giants touched off worry among some Rockies fans, even though he and the club continued to say a lot can improve with game action. There is no concern about his health, and he has every confidence he can eventually approach his 2007 form. That was the year he won 17 games during the regular season and two in the playoffs.

“I always expect to get people out, and I didn’t do that very well lat time,” Francis said. “Obviously, I was looking for an improvement, but there was no panic from me,”

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