Jeff Francis is ready to come back from his latest bout with left shoulder issues, tossing a rehab outing with Triple-A Colorado Springs on Sunday, going three innings and giving up just one hit and one walk. He whiffed three batters and will return to the big-league club no earlier than Wednesday -- which means he'll have spent just under a month on the DL as manager Jim Tracy tells MLB.com .
Francis opened the year on the DL due to a left-shoulder strain, joining the team in mid-May and made 16 starts, posting a 4.56 ERA while limiting opposing hitters to a career-best 1.9 BB/9, although his 5.7 K/9 ratio is his second-worst. He then hit the disabled list August 10 with soreness in his left shoulder, seeing Jhoulys Chacin jump over him for a spot in the rotation.
It's not known whether Francis will pitch out of the rotation or bullpen as Chacin is staying in the rotation for good. Aaron Cook has recently returned to his spot in the rotation after a bout of ineffectiveness, hurling 6 1/3 innings against the Padres, allowing just two runs on Friday. The remainder of the Rockies rotation includes Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel.
The Rox have three lefties in the bullpen, but only one (Joe Beimel) has spent the entire season with the team, so it's likely Francis heads to the 'pen to give the team a lift as they chase what was a seemingly improbable postseason spot mere days ago that is now a possibility.
-- Evan Brunell
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