Has Jeff Francis solved one of baseball's biggest riddles? Through Sunday the Rockies' 24-year-old lefthander, who made his major league debut last Aug. 25, was 5--0 with a 2.78 ERA in his first six career starts at Coors Field, a graveyard for pitchers. How has Francis thrived where so many others have failed? "I don't know," says the 6'5", chopstick-thin Canadian, who this season was 3--0 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts at home. "I approach hitters [at Coors] the same as I would anywhere else: Go right after guys, try and get them to hit the ball."
In Francis, whom they selected ninth overall in 2002, the Rockies hope they finally have a homegrown pitcher around whom they can build. Though he rarely tops 88 mph on the radar gun, Francis's success is a result of using pinpoint command to locate his two-seam fastball and looping curve. Says an NL advance scout, "There's no real secret to why he pitches well [in Colorado]. The bottom line is, he's a very smart pitcher with very good stuff." --Albert Chen
BEN MARGOT/AP (FRANCIS)
Francis succeeds with superior control rather than overwhelming velocity.