While Litsch will attempt to win his season debut Sunday, Francis will try to earn his second victory since coming back from shoulder surgery last month and help the Rockies sweep this three-game set from slumping Toronto.
Litsch went 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 11 starts after being summoned from the minors in 2008, then was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts last season. He underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery on his throwing elbow last June, and his yearlong comeback has included rehab stints at Class A Dunedin and Triple-A Las Vegas.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Litsch told the Blue Jays’ official website. “I’m really happy to finally be back. My velocity’s there, and my control is there too.”
Gaston is hoping that will mean his right-hander, who has never faced the Rockies, can be the pitcher who performed so well two seasons ago.
Francis (1-2, 3.45 ERA) is still trying to recapture his magic from 2007, when he finished a team-best 17-9 for the NL pennant winners. The left-hander went 4-10 the following season, then missed all of 2009 after the surgery on his pitching shoulder.
He returned May 16 and quickly made an impact, going 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA in his first two outings. Francis is 0-2 with a 5.50 ERA in three starts since.
He exited with a one-run lead Tuesday night against Houston after allowing two runs over seven innings, but the Astros rallied against the Colorado bullpen for a 4-3 win.
“Here’s a guy where we took every step you need to take before you venture back into the water,” manager Jim Tracy told the Rockies’ website. “He’s a very special piece that we’re talking about.”
This time, he’ll try to help Colorado (32-30) sweep Toronto (34-29) for the second time in as many home series. The Rockies’ only other three games at Coors Field against the Blue Jays were May 19-21, 2006, with Francis winning the middle game of that set.
Francis will now face a team that produced four hits in Saturday night’s 1-0 loss and has batted .167 during a 1-4 start to a nine-game road trip.
“We’re a better hitting team than this,” said first baseman Lyle Overbay(notes), who went 2 for 2 including a triple in the series opener but was 0 for 3 on Saturday. “I think their staff is learning how to pitch here. You don’t see many sliders or curveballs here and when you do, they are breaking a lot.”