NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Veteran left-hander Jeff Francis finished the 2012 season believing that he and the Rockies had left much business unfinished."We greatly underachieved," Francis said after his final start, a win over the D-backs that left him with a 6-7 record and 5.58 ERA in 24 starts after joining the team in June. "Everybody in here is capable of better things. We all know that, and we all think that. We lost a lot of games and got on some bad runs where we lost a lot of games in a row, and I think we can do a few things to make ourselves better." If all goes as expected, Francis, who turns 32 next month, will take part in helping the team improve on last year's 64-98 finish, as ESPN.com reports that he has agreed to a one-year Major League contract, pending a physical. The Rockies have not confirmed the signing, but if it goes through, Francis can resume his position as a veteran leader on a young staff and club. Francis was a member of the Rockies from 2004 to 2010 and started Game 1 of the only World Series in club history, in 2007. But he missed the entire 2009 season with a shoulder injury, was limited to 20 starts during a comeback year in 2010 and spent 2011 with the Royals re-establishing himself. Francis went to camp with the Reds last spring and was in Triple-A when he received his release; he quickly joined the Rockies. He didn't complain when the club went with its ill-fated four-man-rotation experiment, and his work was held as an example for younger hurlers. Now comes the prospect of trying to help improve the club as it begins anew under new manager Walt Weiss. "This is where I've spent 90 percent of my career," Francis said as last season ended. "For me there would be no better place to have a winning team. It's an accomplishment for this team to win some big games. I had gone through it before with these guys. I think I have what it takes, and it would be a lot of fun." As 2012 closed, then-manager Jim Tracy said that the club needed to retain Francis. Tracy noted that Bo McLaughlin, who will return as assistant pitching coach under Weiss, believed Francis could improve his fastball velocity, which would bring his stuff closer to where it was when he was the Rockies' No. 1 pitcher. "All I know is, I do what I can to be the best I can be," Francis said. "I go into every year knowing I've worked my hardest to get myself in the best possible position to succeed. If my arm has a few extra miles in it, that's good. I'm always working on that." Briefly:
Colorado acquired right-handed reliever Wilton Lopez from Houston in exchange for righty Alex White and a Minor Leaguer on Tuesday, not long after Philadelphia backed out of a deal for Lopez over concerns about his elbow. "We went through a medical exam on him and reviewed all his history. ... Pitchers get injured, and it's risky," said Bill Geivett, the Rockies' senior vice president of Major League operations. "But we're very confident in where he is right now." The Rockies are close to filling Minor League managing and coaching positions, with former first-base coach Glenallen Hill possibly in line to manage Triple-A Colorado Springs and Dave Hajek the odds-on favorite to be hitting coach. Former catching coach Mark Strittmatter, who was on the Pirates' coaching staff the last two years, is returning to the organization as roving catching coach. The Rockies are setting up operations officials at each farm club in an effort to streamline instruction and expectations throughout the system. Marv Foley, a former catching coach, manager at Colorado Springs and Double-A Tulsa, and roving catching instructor, is expected to be one of the directors.
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.