Jeff Francis’ life will be quite different in a few months, when he won’t attend spring training as he has for over a decade.
The left-handed starter announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending an 11-year major-league career that began in 2004 with the Colorado Rockies.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Francis was selected by the Rockies in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft. The lefty spent six seasons with the Rockies before being signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Royals in 2011. It wasn’t long until he called Coors Field home again, as he played another two seasons in Colorado from 2012-13 before bouncing around MLB as a reliever for four teams over the past two years.
In his eight seasons with the Rockies, Francis became one of the most iconic pitchers in the expansion franchise’s short history. In a total of 197 appearances, 185 of which were starts, he compiled a 64-62 record with a 4.96 ERA while calling the hitter-friendly Coors Field his home.
Francis holds a high slot on Colorado’s all-time pitching list, finishing third in wins (64), second in innings pitched (1,066), and fourth in strikeouts (742).
His best season came in 2007, when he posted a 17-9 record with a 4.22 ERA and career bests in innings pitched (215 1/3) and strikeouts (165). Francis then helped lead the Rockies to the World Series that season with a 2-1 record in the postseason.
Colorado was eventually swept in the 2007 World Series by the Boston Red Sox, but that postseason remains an indelible experience for him that he’ll cherish forever.
"It was special to be able to be a champion — I know we didn’t win it all, but that was a team that came together, even though I don’t know what was expected of us," Francis told MLB.com. "We did special things in dramatic fashion. We felt unstoppable. It was almost as if the drama was too much to think about. Looking back, I’m sure there was a lot of pressure, but I don’t think we felt it. We just rode a wave and took it as far as we could."
After playing for the Oakland A’s, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Yankees in 2014, Francis played for the Toronto Blue Jays this past season, serving as a reliever.
In his final outing on Oct. 4, 2015, Francis delivered a scoreless inning of relief in the Blue Jays’ final game of the season.
While he admitted to the struggles of pitching in the thin air of Coors Field for so many years, Francis says he enjoyed his time in Colorado.
"It’s a special place," Francis said. "I spent the bulk of my time there. It was at times an up-and-down career, but to have the time in Denver playing in the World Series, and playing for a team that grew up together, that’s pretty satisfying."