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Notes: Cook trying to show he's ready

Notes: Cook trying to show he's ready

DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook's quest to pitch in the World Series has kicked into high gear.

Cook threw a bullpen session on Wednesday, will do so again on Friday and, in what could be the final test, will throw a simulated game of 60-65 pitches on Sunday at Coors Field.

Cook, the Rockies' Opening Day starter, hasn't pitched in a game since Aug. 10, when he suffered an oblique strain. But he was close when the Rockies decided not to put him on the roster for the National League Championship Series.

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Cook hopes the long layoff between the end of the NLCS and the World Series will give him time to demonstrate that he is ready. Cook wants to be ready to start, but he said he could easily adjust to bullpen work.

"Of course, I would love to be on the roster, but that's not my decision," Cook said. "I'm just trying to make sure I'm prepared every day, and let them make the decision. If they choose to put me on, that's my ultimate goal. If not, that's their decision to make."

In the NLCS against Arizona, the Rockies gave a start to Josh Fogg, who pitched out of the bullpen in the NL Division Series against the Phillies. They also went with rookie Franklin Morales.

In each series, Morales had short outings -- three innings against the Phillies, then four against the Diamondbacks. He pitched better in the latter, giving up one run and being removed for a pinch-hitter because the Rockies had a scoring opportunity.

The Rockies' decision could be between Morales, who lacks experience but has displayed electric stuff, and Cook, who has experience and respect but would be getting back to game action at the most pressure-packed time.

In the last week, Cook has thrown an instructional league game in Arizona and a full-speed throwing session at Coors. But Sunday's workout is as close as he's going to come to game speed against Major League hitters.

The homeland: Probable Game 1 starting pitcher Jeff Francis, a left-hander who has won both postseason starts and has 19 wins total, is from British Columbia, and is a Canadian favorite. As the Rockies have surged, Francis has received text messages from former Rockies standout outfielder Larry Walker -- a thrill for the youngster, since he grew up playing at Larry Walker Field.

Of course, his home country isn't far from his thoughts when it comes to World Series memories. Blue Jays over Phillies in 1993 is his favorite memory.

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"It was definitely Joe Carter hitting the home run to win for the Jays," Francis said. "That was a big thing where I'm from. To be one of the only home runs to end a World Series is very special."

Of course, that memory will be surpassed once Francis takes the mound.

"Really just trying to slow myself down," Francis said of his concern. "I know the excitement and adrenaline is going to be there to take care of everything else."

Championship feeling: Few of the Rockies had played in the postseason before this year. Just one position player, center fielder Willy Taveras, has ever played in a World Series, with the Astros in 2005. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba was on the Giants' roster in 2002 but didn't play. Just one pitcher, left-hander Mark Redman with the Marlins in 2003, has appeared in the Series.

But right fielder Brad Hawpe has at least a little frame of reference. Hawpe starred for LSU's College World Series champions in 2000.

"There are a lot of similarities," Hawpe said. "I was talking to my coach [Skip Bertman, now the LSU athletic director] today on the way to the park about how funny it is that things are similar. Now this is on a little bigger scale, but it's still the same feeling.

"When you get to this situation, even at the lower levels of high school or college, you try to be the best team out there, the best at the level you're playing. There's a lot of pressure, but that's all part of baseball and sports. For good players, that's what you look forward to."

Wonder Boy? New and specially branded World Series 2007 bats rolled off the Louisville Slugger® production line Wednesday for the red-hot Rockies as they prepare to make their historic first appearance in baseball's Fall Classic.

The bats were turned on Louisville Slugger's special Major League Baseball CNC lathe on Tuesday, then branded and packed for shipping Wednesday. Players in the World Series get Louisville Slugger game model bats branded with their name and 2007 WORLD SERIES. In addition, every player, coach, manager, and trainer from both the National League and American League champions will receive a special 2007 World Series logo souvenir bat.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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