COL@CHC: Francis strikes out seven in six frames

DENVER -- After taking a line drive off the front of his left ankle Tuesday, left-hander Jeff Francis has a new rehab schedule.

Francis will throw a bullpen session Friday before making his first rehab start with Triple-A Colorado Springs on Monday when they travel to Salt Lake City. His next start will come June 8 in Reno, and Rockies manager Walt Weiss said they are primarily focused on making sure the veteran southpaw is back to full strength before he returns to the big leagues.

"We know who Jeff is," Weiss said. "It's just a matter of going out there pain-free and healthy, and if that's the case, just go out there and do his thing."

Francis is also recovering from a left groin injury, which on Thursday he said felt noticeably better but had not completely healed. Through eight starts this season -- the most recent a six-inning, one-run outing against the Cubs on May 14 -- Francis is 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA.

Fowler finding stroke again after slump

SF@COL: Fowler connects for an RBI double in third

DENVER -- Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler has shown a gradual rebound after slumping for the early part of May.

Fowler hit .305 with eight home runs and 15 RBIs in April before a slide that saw his average drop to .252 on May 16. Since then, however, Fowler has hit .348 with four doubles and a .455 on-base percentage over 12 games.

The switch-hitting Fowler has had periods of heavy strikeouts at various times, but in five games going into Thursday night against the Astros, he had walked seven times against just one strikeout.

"It's a good sign [when] he's drawing walks," manager Walt Weiss said. "That is a part of his game. He's always been a high on-base guy, so the fact that he's not expanding the zone and he's taking walks is a good sign."

Weiss has used Fowler in the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the order, dropping the center fielder to second when Eric Young Jr. has started. Fowler's results have been far better at leadoff (.293 average, .412 on-base percentage in 26 games) than at No. 2 (.250, .333 in 20 games), but Weiss said he will continue to lean toward his usual plan when Young starts.

"I think Dexter is capable of getting on base and doing his thing, regardless where he is in the lineup," Weiss said.

Oswalt making good strides in Double-A

DENVER -- Three-time All-Star right-hander Roy Oswalt, who signed a Minor League deal with the Rockies on May 3, made dramatic strides from his first start with Double-A Tulsa to Wednesday night's six-inning, six-strikeout performance in a victory over Midland.

In his previous start, also against Midland, Oswalt went five innings and gave up four hits, but two were homers.

"He's getting in game shape," Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright said. "The timing and rhythm were much better, which is just part of being out there. He's an old veteran. He just needs some mound time and get his innings in and crank it up about seven times. He's feeling good."

Scahill turning page after first rough appearance

ATL@COL: Scahill tosses three scoreless innings

DENVER -- Rob Scahill entered Wednesday night's game against the Astros with a spotless slate, having not surrendered a single run in his first 5 1/3 innings of the season.

That streak came to an abrupt end in a 6-3 loss to the Astros, when Scahill surrendered three runs in the ninth inning to turn the Rockies' one-run deficit into a four-run hole. First baseman Carlos Pena kicked off the inning with a home run before three timely singles led to two additional runs.

The difference between the Scahill of earlier this season and the one on the mound Wednesday, he said, was the reliever's ability to control sliders and changeups.

"Everything that I do revolves around my fastball command," Scahill said. "If I'm not able to spot my fastball, it's going to be difficult. I need to have something else to complement that -- whether it be the changeup or whether it be the slider -- so in a fastball count I don't have to throw a fastball."

Lacking the control he had in his first two appearances this year, Scahill put himself in a tough spot and watched his ERA climb to 4.26.

"They're a good hitting team, and when you fall behind, you get into fastball counts and you know [the pitcher is] going to be throwing fastballs," Scahill said.

The Rockies called up Scahill from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Wednesday to add an extra arm to their bullpen in the midst of a taxing stretch of 17 consecutive games. With the disappointing appearance behind him, Scahill is confident he will round back into early season form and extend his stay in Denver.

"I'm here to try to help, and hopefully make the decision hard for them to send me down," Scahill said.

Despite struggles vs. southpaws, Tulo raking

HOU@COL: Tulo's solo homer puts Rockies on the board

DENVER -- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's opposite-field homer and his RBI double off Astros left-hander Erik Bedard on Wednesday night were reminders of what used to be commonplace.

The strong night against Bedard lifted Tulowitzki's batting average this season against lefties to .269, which is well below some of his high standards. He posted a .333 average against southpaws in 2007, .330 in '08, .342 in '10 and .349 in '11.

It's not as if Tulo's struggles against lefties are ruining his year. He went into Thursday leading the National League in slugging percentage, at .633, and OPS, at 1.037, and was tied with the Reds' Brandon Phillips for the RBI lead at 43.

"I remember looking, and I led the league one year against lefties, so I think it's one of those things where I've hit into hard outs and haven't faced them on a normal basis," Tulowitzki said. "Another thing is some of the lefties in our division are tough matchups against me, so that's brought my average down."

Worth noting

• Did an unusual schedule that called for four straight day games have an effect on the Rockies? They were under the sun for the final two games in San Francisco, and both contests in Houston. Colorado scored a total of six runs in three games with the Astros, who had strong starting pitching from Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles and Bedard.

Several players said it was nice to arrive at Coors Field for a night game Thursday after playing Wednesday night, because it was normal rest and on a normal routine.

"There are certain times in the schedule where it's going to be a bit of a grind, and this is one of those times," said Weiss, whose club is in the midst of a 17 games in 17 days stretch. "But we've got to make sure we don't give in to the grind and fight through that stuff. I'm confident our guys can do that."