DENVER -- Jeremy Guthrie went from the loneliness that came with an awful outing in Phoenix on Tuesday night to plenty of company for what is usually a private activity on Friday.For Guthrie's bullpen session at Coors Field, Rockies hitters Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. stood in the batter's box. The plan was to have Guthrie execute pitches at close to game conditions. The hitters didn't swing, but their presence gave him something more than the catcher's target in his field of vision. Against the D-backs, any hitter was a dangerous one. Guthrie gave up seven runs on 11 hits, including two home runs, in just 3 1/3 innings of the 10-0 loss. Afterward, Guthrie said he understood if the Rockies wanted to remove him from the rotation but later said it was just his personality speaking. The next day, manager Jim Tracy told him in a meeting that the Rockies acquired him from the Orioles before the season to eat innings and help lead the staff, and that hasn't changed. So Guthrie is preparing for a start Tuesday against the Athletics, using the presence of someone in the batter's box as a hitting tool, which he said he has done before. With an extra day between starts, he could simulate the attack mode that he needs in a game and command pitches. "It's nice to be able to squeeze in a session there where you can attack a hitter -- it's more than a bullpen but not as much as a game," Guthrie said. "You simulate closer to a game than you'd get in a standard bullpen." The loss to the D-backs dropped Guthrie to 3-4 with a 6.35 ERA, with 12 home runs and 19 walks against 23 strikeouts. More startling is Guthrie is averaging 5 2/3 innings a start. For a team with an overworked bullpen, that's not good enough. And it's not a normal pattern for Guthrie, who has reached or exceeded 200 innings the past three years with the Orioles. "We're trying to get Jeremy Guthrie to surface the way we know he's capable of surfacing," Tracy said. "We're actually challenging him to the point that if he does -- and I really believe he's capable of doing that -- how capable are we of being better than we've been in the past." Guthrie said he has boiled the problem down to executing pitches, especially earlier in the count. Before his last start, pitching coach Bob Apodaca noticed a balance issue at the beginning of his delivery. Guthrie said focusing on that didn't fix the problem with his pitches, so he's going to simply concentrate on putting the pitch on target, with the belief that mechanics will fall into place. "I'm not far away," Guthrie said. "I just need to be better in the zone early in the count, and make whatever mental and physical adjustments to be able to do that more consistently. I don't need to overhaul anything; just work on it, get some more confidence as I do it more often and see things change."
Francis rejoins rotation in time to face Angels
DENVER -- The announcement from Rockies manager Jim Tracy came late Friday following a 7-2 loss to the Angels and well after left-hander Jeff Francis had been spotted in the workout room at Coors Field.Tracy said Friday night that Francis will start against the Angels in Saturday's game at 2:10 p.m. MT. Francis, 31, who was pitching well in Triple-A for the Reds before asking for his release for a Major League opportunity, will oppose Angels righty Dan Haren at Coors Field in his return to the Rockies. Francis pitched for the Rockies in 2004-10, although he missed 2009 with a shoulder injury. Francis was the Rockies' No. 1 pitcher for much of that time, including 2007, when he went 17-9 with a 4.22 ERA and won games in the National League Division and Championship series before losing Game 1 of the World Series, in which the Rockies were swept by the Red Sox. He went 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts for the Royals last season. The Angels might not be happy to see Francis. Last year, Francis went 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA and nine strikeouts against no walks against them.
Injury report: Tulowitzki does some light running
DENVER -- Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, eligible to return from his left groin strain on June 15, did light running at Coors Field on Friday -- a step toward a return."I saw him in the office and he's beginning to feel good," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said, who added that Tulowitzki is "progressing very nicely." In other injury news: Catcher Ramon Hernandez has done running and throwing but no hitting. He has not played since May 23 because of a left hand strain. Right-hander Juan Nicasio had fluid drained from his left knee. The injury occurred on Saturday. Nicasio said the knee is progressing nicely. He is eligible to return June 18. He is playing catch but will have to throw bullpen sessions before being a serious candidate to return. Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and has had his rehab assignments halted twice, is pain-free but the Rockies will wait another day or so before he plays catch. The latest setback was swelling, but there was not structural damage. Infielder Jonathan Herrera, who hasn't played since May 21 because of a right hamstring strain, began a rehab assignment at Double-A Tulsa but has had to take time off because of tightness in the hamstring. However, the Rockies have not pulled him from the assignment and believe a limited amount of rest will help. Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who hasn't pitched since May 1 because of a chest muscle injury, has played catch for three days in a row without pain and is beginning to feel strength increasing. No word on the next step.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.