DENVER -- It was a pleasant surprise this morning for Rockies players and media alike to see Jeff Francis return to the big league clubhouse. Francis was called up to replace last night's starting pitcher, Collin McHugh, who was optioned to AAA Colorado Springs.
"I was very surprised -- I got the call only about an hour ago, my gear's not even here yet," remarked Francis this morning.
The 32 year-old lefty, who is one of the most successful starting pitchers in Rockies history, struggled as a starter this year, compiling a 6.58 ERA and 1.56 WHIP over 11 starts and 52 innings pitched, was sent down by the team on June 20th. Over the All-Star break, the Rockies announced that he was going to be working as a reliever.
"I've never done it before (the last week or so), it's foreign to me," Francis said about being a relief pitcher. "They did leave it up to me (about whether to move to the pen or not), but they felt that it was the best ticket for me to help this team."
Francis will join Josh Outman and Rex Brothers as lefthanders in the bullpen, working as a multi-inning reliever per manager Walt Weiss.
"Jeff's been around for a while," Weiss said before the game. "He's got the arm strength built up from being a starter, so multiple innings won't be an issue for him ... we think this will be a good role for him."
Francis told me that he'll continue to pitch as he did as a starter, throwing from the full windup when no runners are on base.
"He's meant a lot to this organization," Weiss said. "I think everybody's glad to see Jeff back up here."
Weiss confirmed that Francis wouldn't be the starter in McHugh's place on Thursday but would indeed be in the bullpen.
"We've got to figure that one out," Weiss said about Thursday's starter -- it didn't sound to me like a decision had been made.
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