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Keeping ball down key for Francis' success

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.

Jack Etkin is a contributor to
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