Following shoulder surgery and a setback this past spring, Francis will make his first major league appearance since September 2008 as the Rockies wrap up a four-game set with the Washington Nationals.
“This has been a long time coming. It’s definitely been a while since the last time I pitched,” he said after a rainout Friday night.
Francis was the club’s top pitcher during its run to the World Series in 2007, leading the Rockies with 17 wins and 165 strikeouts in 215 1-3 innings. In 2008, the left-hander slumped to 4-10, and had just 94 strikeouts in 143 2-3 innings while his ERA rose sharply to 5.01.
He missed all of last year after surgery to repair a torn labrum, and was forced to sit out the first six weeks this season after straining an area under his left armpit in his final spring training outing.
“I was looking forward to being back on this team, wasn’t even thinking about (the arm),” Francis said “I felt like the rug had been taken out from under me a little bit. That was probably a low, knowing it would take a little bit more work to get back to this point.
“Being on that mound again is going to be a good feeling.”
However, Francis is 1-1 with a 6.04 ERA in four career starts against the Nationals, losing the last time he faced them Aug. 7, 2008.
The Nationals will go with Scott Olsen(notes) (2-1, 3.51 ERA), who is continuing his own comeback from shoulder surgery, and whose last loss came at home against the Rockies on April 20. He yielded a season-high six runs in two-plus innings of a 10-4 defeat.
In four starts since, Olsen is 2-0 with a 1.05 ERA. He gave up a total of 11 hits over 13 scoreless innings in wins over the Dodgers and Florida, then carried a no-hitter into the eighth versus Atlanta on May 6.
“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t thinking about it,” Olsen said of the no-hit bid. “But it’s one of those things that’s hard - real hard - to do.”
Olsen failed to get a decision his last time out, surrendering two runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of an 8-6 loss to the Mets.
The left-hander needs one win to surpass his total from last season, when he was limited to 11 starts before undergoing surgery in July. Olsen is 1-1 with an 11.20 ERA in three career starts at Coors Field.
Colorado (18-18) will be looking to tie a season high with its third straight win following a doubleheader sweep Saturday.
In the opener, Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) pitched eight sharp innings, and improved to 7-1 in the 6-2 victory. In the nightcap, Paul Phillips(notes) scored the go-ahead run of the 4-3 Rockies win on shortstop Ian Desmond’s(notes) seventh-inning throwing error.
“Turns out to be a terrific day for us,” manager Jim Tracy said of the Rockies, who have recorded 10 of their 18 wins against NL East foes.
Washington (20-17) will try to avoid its first three-game skid of the year. The Nationals have endured 34 losing streaks of at least three games over the last two seasons, en route to the majors’ worst record in both 2008 and 2009.
Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman(notes) went 5 for 8 in Saturday’s twinbill for Washington, and is 8 for 13 with two homers and seven RBIs in the series. He’s 8 for 12 with a homer and three RBIs against Francis.