6/18/2013 1:41 A.M. ET
Francis: Start in Canada is 'extra special'
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis is known for cool, even emotions, but he allowed that Tuesday night's start against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre will be meaningful.
Francis grew up on the West Coast in Vancouver and is a treasured figure in Canadian baseball circles. He also makes his offseason home in London, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. Francis won his only start at Rogers Centre, when he pitched for the Royals and held the Jays to two runs and six hits in six innings of a 9-6 victory on Aug. 25, 2011.
"It was fun, there were a lot of people here," said Francis, who set up a group-ticket plan and expects 15 or so friends and family members. "And any time I get to face a team where it's on TV across the country and they can watch, it's fun. You want to have a good game every time, but sometimes it's a little extra special."
Francis (2-4, 5.87 ERA) was strong in his last outing, striking out eight in six innings, but he didn't figure in the decision in the Rockies' 5-4 loss to the Nationals on Thursday. The loss, as well as the loss of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for 4-6 weeks because of a broken rib on the right side, overshadowed the result. But Francis can take with him a sense of success, especially when it came to using his curveball.
"I certainly had it going that day. I had a good rhythm, guys were making plays and I was working quick," he said. "A lot of things went my way."
Francis will be facing former teammate Esmil Rogers (2-2, 3.21 ERA in 26 games, including three starts). Rogers pitched for the Rockies from 2009-2012 before going to the Indians last season.
"I played with him here, and he was a great guy, good teammate," Francis said.
Rockies announcing plan for Oswalt Tuesday
TORONTO -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the club will announce Tuesday their plan with veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt, who dazzled Friday in what figures to be his final start at Double-A Tulsa.
With the Rockies scheduled to start left-hander Jeff Francis on Tuesday and right-hander Juan Nicasio on Wednesday, the possibility exists that Oswalt will make his Rockies debut Thursday night at Washington.
Colorado has off-days June 24 and July 1, so it could delay the decision a couple more times through the rotation.
Tuesday is the first of the dates that the Rockies must determine whether to add Oswalt to the Major League roster within days or allow him to look at other clubs. The chances of the Rockies losing Oswalt are nil. He is 3-2 with a 2.16 ERA in five starts for Tulsa, and he pitched 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball in his last start, a 1-0 victory over Arkansas.
Playing on turf in Toronto, CarGo at DH Monday
TORONTO -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez played through the pain of left knee tendinitis, then suffered a bruised left foot Thursday when he was hit by a foul ball in the on-deck circle, and learned Monday he was still chosen as the National League Player of the Week.
So what is his reward? More potential for pain, thanks to the artificial turf of Rogers Centre.
Actually, Rockies manager Walt Weiss decided Gonzalez would serve as designated hitter for Monday's Interleague game against the Blue Jays, sparing him some additional discomfort in his knee and foot, which are still sore and will be for some time.
"I played here when I was with the A's in 2008, my last time. And when I went to the WBC, I played on turf in Puerto Rico," Gonzalez said. "It's a little different. We don't stay here for too long, then we don't have to play here anymore."
Gonzalez laughed when saying that, not wanting to offend the neighbors to the north. He said he doesn't have concerns about the abrasions that can come from leaping for balls and sliding into the ground, but the general pounding that can come from playing on the surface has entered his mind. Rogers Centre uses the AstroTurf brand, which is a little different from the rubber-and-grass-based Field Turf surfaces seen on youth football and soccer fields.
"I'm not concerned about diving, but my knee doesn't feel very well, and this is the last place you want to be when your knee is sore," Gonzalez said.
Weiss said during this 10-game, three-city road trip, he'll rest or DH players who tend to be in the lineup frequently. He is considering slotting right fielder Michael Cuddyer into the designated hitter role for a game in Toronto.
Rockies extoll virtues of learning quirks of each park
TORONTO -- Prior to Monday's game against the Blue Jays, Rockies advance scout Chris Warren and catching instructor Jerry Weinstein walked to the right-field corner of Rogers Centre, throwing baseballs against the fence and observing. Every few feet, they'd repeat.
They noted how the ball deadened when it hit the unmarked padded parts of the wall, and how it rebounded a little better where the wall was covered with ads. They noted the quick rebound from the clear plastic protecting the bullpens in right- and left-center, and the even quicker rebound off the scoreboards along the fences in the power alleys.
Rogers Centre is the only AstroTurf surface the Rockies will play on this year, so Warren and Weinstein tested how the ball reacted when it bounced from the turf to the small dirt cutouts around the bases. They tested dirt around the plate and the foul lines, and noted the expansive foul ground on either side and behind home plate. They threw balls off the backstop. They looked at how the indoor lighting affects various positions.
The routine drew more eyes Monday because of the unfamiliar surroundings of Rogers Centre. But it's a ritual the pair undertake everywhere the Rockies go, even if it's a place where they play regularly.
Actually, it's something professionals do instinctively, and players and coaches at amateur levels should do, but often don't know that they should. But Warren said having him and Weinstein do it early, well before batting practice, has a practical value.
"It's good for me just to give those guys time to rest in the locker room and get prepared for the game," said Warren, a former shortstop in the Rockies' farm system. "They're able to look out for certain places, in case they get a tricky hop or tricky bounce off the wall. It's part of my job. If I can prepare our team to its best point, it's less stuff to worry about, and they can just react to certain situations."
For example, the expansive area in foul ground and from home to the backstop is not only a factor when it comes to fielding foul balls. Offensively, it may make the difference between going from first to second or first to third on a wild throw from an infielder. Defensively, it means outfielders have to hustle, in some cases covering great distances, to back up infield throws.
"Sometimes, they don't figure it out until they get beat, so my theory is: Don't make the same mistake once," Weinstein said.
Weinstein noted that getting to know a field is advice that can make a difference to youth players as well the volunteer coaches who are giving their time, since every field has differences. He offered as an example that the infield dirt at Coors Field runs deeper than at most Major League parks.
"Young shortstops see where the infield is cut, and they stand where they stand relative to the cut," Weinstein said. "For me, you have to work off the baseline. The baseline is always the same, whereas the cut of the infield is always different. So if it's deeper and you play relative to where the cut is, the ball gets to you, and the guy is safe by two steps because you're playing a lot deeper relative to the cut and not relative to the baseline."
• The Rockies are beginning a 10-game road trip Monday with games at Toronto, Washington and Boston. As has been the case with seemingly every road trip this year, Weiss was asked to address the significance of the trip.
"It seems like every time we've gone on the road this year, we've said, 'Man, this is going to be a tough trip,'" said Weiss, who has preached an even-keeled approach to road trips as a way for the Rockies to combat their traditional woes away from Coors Field. "I don't think it's ever an easy trip. You're going out on the road, and it's tough to win away from your park.
"It always seems we're playing good clubs, regardless who we match up against. It's another challenge for us. We've done a nice job on the road this year."
• Right-hander Rafael Betancourt, who hasn't pitched in a game since May 31 because of a right groin strain, said he will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, and he plans to throw a live batting practice session Friday while the club is in Washington. Betancourt said his goal is to use the batting practice to work his way into game shape, so that he will not have to have a Minor League rehab assignment, and would like to return after the road trip.
• Rogers was all smiles while visiting with former Rockies teammates during batting practice, but that will change Tuesday when he faces Francis.
"It's exciting that I'm going to face my old team, but I have to do my job. If I have to face my mom or my brother, I have to do my job," Rogers said. "I can't wait to face these guys, and they can't wait to face me."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.