COMMENTARY | After the disappointing start on June 8 against the San Diego Padres, Jeff Francis' future as a starter for the Colorado Rockies is under question. The 32-year-old was taken by the Rockies in the first round of the 2002 draft, but management has to be questioning whether there is any more potential for Francis as a starter.
Francis returned from the disabled list on Saturday to high expectations and hopes, but manager Walt Weiss' quote on MLB.com states, "I think maybe there was some rust."
That sounds more like a deflection than a true opinion of Francis' performance. Maybe Francis should be taken out of that battle for the fourth/fifth starter slot and moved into the bullpen as a permanent left-handed reliever.
Some might be concerned that, historically, Francis seems to have his worst innings up front, and as a reliever this could encourage negative momentum after a switch. However, starters tend to pace themselves more than relievers do, so there is a strong potential for Francis to improve his ability to shut down batters right out of the gate. His current 6.30 ERA is there because of those slow starts, but his stats still show Francis to be a highly effective left-hander that may be best suited to the club's bullpen.
If Francis is moved to the bullpen, who will fill that starter spot? With Jon Garland gone, Juan Nicasio would slide down into the fourth spot, which opens that fifth spot for Roy Oswalt. His tuning with the Tulsa Drillers has been looking good, and it may be time to give Oswalt the nod. Moving Francis into the bullpen would probably cause Rob Scahill or Manuel Corpas to be sent down for more fine-tuning.
Francis' performance Saturday against the Padres was a disappointing return to action because it is hard to ignore four runs in four frames with some high pitch counts to match. Add in the factor that Francis is saying he feels as good as ever, and I believe that his best may not be starter-quality. He is a great asset to the Rockies' left-handed arsenal, so there's no need to throw this baby out with the bathwater.
Lou Hebert, a former sportswriter for the OC Voice newspaper, is a freelance journalist and commentator covering the Colorado Rockies for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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