Colorado Rockies: Jeff Francis reflects on pitching at altitude
By Kevin Henry
Many people make a big deal about what it must be like to be a pitcher for the Colorado Rockies and pitch at altitude. Jeff Francis, a key member of Colorado’s 2007 World Series squad, shrugs it off.
In a Zoom call on Wednesday morning (Denver time), Francis and other new members of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (including former Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau, John Olerud, Duane Ward, and Jacques Doucet) discussed not only their Canadian heritage, but what baseball has meant to them.
Of course, for Jeff Francis, that means a lot of his time in a Colorado Rockies uniform.
Francis, the ninth overall pick in the 2002 MLB draft, made his Colorado debut on August 25, 2004, and pitched for eight seasons with the Rockies, throwing 1,066 innings in a Colorado uniform. That includes a 2007 season where Francis finished ninth in National League Cy Young balloting, going 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA.
Those career numbers from Francis includes how he pitched at Coors Field, going 34-29 with a 4.92 ERA in 523.2 innings at altitude.
That amount of pitching in Denver might shake some pitchers, but Francis took altitude and all of its perceptions in stride.
"“I didn’t have any basis of comparison,” Francis said on the Zoom. “It was my home. It was the first place I’d played. I think that helped me. No. 2, I think we had a group of young players who just came up and didn’t know any better.”"
Francis looks at Colorado’s current homegrown rotation and others who have taken the mound in Denver as proof that pitchers can succeed with the Rockies. However, it’s a matter of how long that success can be replicated, Francis said.
"“There is a long list of players who have been able to pitch there for a year or two or three and really have success for a short period of time,” Francis offered to the reporters on the call, including Rox Pile. “There’s a short list of people who have had extended success there (Denver) — Jorge De La Rosa, and maybe Ubaldo Jiménez and Aaron Cook.“People like me would have two or three really successful years, then we would have trouble replicating those years. But I would never use the excuse that it was hard to pitch there because of altitude. It’s just really hard to pitch in the Major Leagues.”"
Francis (the only 2022 inductee) and the other new members of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (all from 2020 and not inducted because of the pandemic) will be inducted on June 18 in St. Marys, Ontario.