Friday, April 2, 2010

Rockies Put Jeff Francis On DL, Smith Moves Into Rotation

Just as Jeff Francis thought that he was over the hump, he showed up at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque feeling stiff and sore.

The lefty had just completed his best spring outing on Thursday, allowing Rockies fans to breathe a sigh of relief. His velocity was back up to where it needed to be and his changeup was hitting its spots. Unfortunately for the Rockies, he may have pushed a little too hard.

The injury moves Greg Smith into the starting rotation and allows Joe Beimel to have a spot in the bullpen when the season begins on Monday.

Francis joins closer Huston Street on the disabled list to start the season. Any other year in Rockies history and these injuries would immediately remove the club from any sort of contention talk, at this point however, both injuries seem like they can be overcome.

Never has a Colorado Rockies squad been so chalk full of depth. Instead of hoping for the best with the Francis injury, this Rockies club simply slides a guy like Smith right into the rotation, hardly missing a beat. Smith is not the typical stop-gap. In 2008 with the Oakland A's, Smith racked up over 190 innings and posted a 4.16 ERA. Not Cy Young numbers, but also pretty good stats for a kid cutting his teeth in the big leagues.

If Smith fails there are several youngsters waiting to get their chance. Esmil Rogers, who made a start in San Diego in late 2009, along with Jhoulys Chacin and Samuel Deduno are patiently waiting for their chance to break into the Major League rotation. All have incredible arms and are highly thought of by Major League scouts.

The injury to Francis also has the potential to show just how good of a general manager Dan O'Dowd really is. The way that Street and Carlos Gonzalez performed in 2009 was enough to prove that the Rockies got the better end of the Matt Holliday trade, but if Smith is able to perform at anywhere near decent levels, that trade will look like a steal for the Rockies.

The signing of Joe Beimel also proves to be huge. Less than two weeks ago the lefty was signed to a Minor League contract. Now he is providing the Rockies with the opportunity to not put someone on the Major League roster who performed poorly this spring. A guy like Justin Speier or Tim Redding will not make the club simply because they are available.

Although the timing of the injury for Francis is not great, it could definitely be worse. If Smith was working as the long man out of the bullpen for the first couple of weeks, it might have been tough for him to stretch it back out quickly. With Francis not being completely healthy, he could have easily thrown three or four starts without his best stuff and set the team back. The way it is now, Smith can prepare to be a starter and stay on a schedule until Francis attempts to return.

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