Blue Jays-Rockies Preview

As Jesse Litsch prepares to make his first start since Tommy

John surgery, Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston hopes the

right-hander can quickly rediscover his form from the end of

2008.

Colorado Rockies starter Jeff Francis knows first-hand the

difficulty of coming back from a lengthy absence.

While Litsch will attempt to win his season debut Sunday,

Francis will try to earn his second victory since coming back from

shoulder surgery last month and help the Rockies sweep this

three-game set from slumping Toronto.

Litsch went 5-3 with a 2.83 ERA in 11 starts after being

summoned from the minors in 2008, then was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in

two starts last season. He underwent elbow ligament replacement

surgery on his throwing elbow last June, and his yearlong comeback

has included rehab stints at Class A Dunedin and Triple-A Las

Vegas.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Litsch told the Blue Jays’

official website. “I’m really happy to finally be back. My

velocity’s there, and my control is there too.”

Gaston is hoping that will mean his right-hander, who has never

faced the Rockies, can be the pitcher who performed so well two

seasons ago.

“When he came back from the minors in 2008, he was just as good

as (Roy Halladay) that year, so I hope he comes back just as good,”

Gaston told the Blue Jays’ website.

Francis (1-2, 3.45 ERA) is still trying to recapture his magic

from 2007, when he finished a team-best 17-9 for the NL pennant

winners. The left-hander went 4-10 the following season, then

missed all of 2009 after the surgery on his pitching shoulder.

He returned May 16 and quickly made an impact, going 1-0 with a

0.68 ERA in his first two outings. Francis is 0-2 with a 5.50 ERA

in three starts since.

He exited with a one-run lead Tuesday night against Houston

after allowing two runs over seven innings, but the Astros rallied

against the Colorado bullpen for a 4-3 win.

“Here’s a guy where we took every step you need to take before

you venture back into the water,” manager Jim Tracy told the

Rockies’ website. “He’s a very special piece that we’re talking

about.”

This time, he’ll try to help Colorado (32-30) sweep Toronto

(34-29) for the second time in as many home series. The Rockies’

only other three games at Coors Field against the Blue Jays were

May 19-21, 2006, with Francis winning the middle game of that

set.

Francis will now face a team that produced four hits in Saturday

night’s 1-0 loss and has batted .167 during a 1-4 start to a

nine-game road trip.

“We’re a better hitting team than this,” said first baseman Lyle

Overbay, who went 2 for 2 including a triple in the series opener

but was 0 for 3 on Saturday. “I think their staff is learning how

to pitch here. You don’t see many sliders or curveballs here and

when you do, they are breaking a lot.”