4/18/2013 6:27 P.M. ET
Keeping ball down key for Francis' success
By Jack Etkin / Special to MLB.com
DENVER -- Jeff Francis pitched well in the Rockies home opener April 5, but he has struggled in his past two outings. He pitched 1 2/3 innings -- the shortest outing of his career -- on April 10 at San Francisco and 4 1/3 innings against the Mets on Tuesday in the second game of a doubleheader at home, where it was 36 degrees when he threw his first pitch.
In those two starts, Francis has given up 16 hits and 15 runs, 10 earned, with six walks (two intentional) and six strikeouts.
"Sometimes you just get your butt kicked, like he did in 'Frisco," pitching coach Jim Wright said. "I'm giving a mulligan because of the weather.
"As a finesse pitcher, you always have to stay in attack mode and you have to make your pitches. And if you get a little too careful and you flatten out [with your pitches], then the worst can happen to you. More than anything the last two times, Jeff's gotten the ball up and flattened out and lost his trajectory. When you're flat, everything looks the same; he's just got to keep the ball down."
The left-handed Francis pitched very well in Spring Training and allowed the Padres one run in six innings April 5. His cut fastball, a very good pitch against right-handed hitters, has not been as sharp in his past two starts.
With hamstring tight, Cuddyer scratched
DENVER -- Right fielder Michael Cuddyer was scratched from the lineup Thursday with hamstring tightness. Cuddyer was ready to play, and he was surprised when manager Walt Weiss decided otherwise.
"He's never going to want to come out, regardless of how he's feeling," Weiss said. "He's right; I'm sure he could run out there and play today. These are the times I think it's my responsibility to take care of guys and protect them."
Cuddyer played 19 innings in the cold Tuesday, when the Rockies swept a split doubleheader against the Mets. That factored into Weiss' decision. He said, "I just thought it was a good day to shut him down."
Tulo, Fowler return to Rockies' lineup in finale
DENVER -- Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and center fielder Dexter Fowler were back in the Rockies' lineup on Thursday. Tulowitzki was hit with a Dillon Gee pitch on the left elbow in the first game Tuesday and pinch-hit in the second game of a doubleheader. Tulowitzki said he could have played Wednesday had the Rockies-Mets game not been postponed by snow and cold, but that the day off was good for his elbow.
Fowler fouled a ball off his left foot Sunday at San Diego. He didn't play in Tuesday's first game and struck out as a pinch-hitter in the second game. Fowler said his foot was "a little sore" Wednesday "but nothing I can't play through." Before Thursday's game, Fowler said his foot was "still a little sore, but it doesn't matter."
• Don Baylor, who managed the Rockies from their 1993 inception through 1998, will be inducted in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame at a banquet Thursday night. Baylor is the D-backs' hitting coach. Arizona will open a weekend series at Coors Field with the Rockies on Friday.
• DJ LeMahieu is playing shortstop regularly at Triple-A Colorado Springs to get him more experience at that position. With the Rockies last year, he played 67 games at second base, nine at third base and two at shortstop. Third baseman Nolan Arenado, the Rockies' top prospect, is playing that position at Colorado Springs, and Charlie Culberson, who has strictly played second base since 2010, is the regular at that position. Weiss said, "All that's a factor, but the biggest factor is we want DJ to get some time at short."
• It was 28 degrees when Thursday's game began, with a wind chill of 23. The 28 degrees ties the franchise record for the coldest temp at first pitch. It was also 28 degrees on April 12, 1997, against Montreal, and that, too, was a day game.
• Wednesday's postponed game between the Mets and Rockies at Coors Field has been rescheduled for June 27 at 4:10 p.m. MT.
Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.