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Saturday Morning Rockpile:

Jack Etkin at the Rocky Mountain News points to improvements in Jeff Francis' command this Spring as a good omen for the season. Certainly if Franchise can cut down on the number of scoring chances he gives opponents by cutting back on his walks allowed, then his overall numbers should improve. Last season Francis probably could be classified as a decent mid-rotation starter, a number three, but with said improvements should be able to take the step up to a number two level of performance. That would go a long way in replacing the production lost by dealing JJ this offseason. Subsequently, if Jason Hirsh and Rodrigo can step in to the middle effectively, then we should be about level with the overall production of last season's rotation. To get ahead of 2006 we'd also need to upgrade the number five slot, but that might not happen until Brian Lawrence is ready.

Of course, if you read yesterday's game thread or my Opening Day roster prediction in the diary on the right, you'll know that I favor the use of Ubaldo Jimenez from the get go. Yesterday's two inning performance by Jimenez impressed Clint Hurdle even according to a notes column in the Rocky, as U-ball was able to shut down a threat that materialized in his second inning without damage. Contrasting that to how Kim, or Fogg, or even Buchholz allowed the run scoring dam to breach a bit earlier in the week shows part of the reason why I think he might be ready. There could be another option for the fifth slot I haven't touched on much this Spring, but so long as we didn't jeopardize the long term outlook to get Carl Pavano, I wouldn't mind bringing "American Idle" back to the NL on our side.

That above RMN notes link also mentions that Clint Barmes' swing looked sharper yesterday, and judging by the results, I think it's safe to say Cory Sullivan's did as well. Maybe this pair of 2006 starters will make the Spring roster competition interesting yet, but they've got some ground to make up. Also noted is the injury to first base coach Glenallen Hill off a sharp line drive by Alexis Gomez. Obviously we all wish and hope Hill is able to have a quick and relatively painless recovery regardless of what his injury might be.

Some blog stuff going on, Up in the Rockies has been continuing with their excellent player by player previews, up to Taylor Buchholz as of this writing. Tom at Coors Effect went to Tucson last weekend and on Monday reported back what he saw, and another report from Tucson comes in from Post sportswriter Patrick Saunders in the newspaper's All Things Rockies blog.

I've got one more blog I wish to counter with a seperate post, so this will have to do for now.