SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Frank Francisco was back out on the mound for the Rangers on Thursday, pitching a scoreless inning in a "B" game against the Royals. Francisco, who has a 1.69 ERA in four Cactus League games, retired his first hitter on a grounder, walked the next batter and induced an inning-ending double play. It was his first appearance in a game since March 8. He had been dealing with some elbow soreness, but pitching coach Mark Connor also wanted to give him an extra session in the bullpen to work on his breaking and offspeed pitches. Francisco had a terrific split-finger fastball in 2004 when he was 5-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 45 games for the Rangers, winning the club's Rookie of the Year Award. But he missed almost of all of the next two years because of Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and the split-finger pitch has not been the same since.
That was noticeable last year when he was 1-1 with a 4.55 ERA in 59 games for the Rangers. He struck out 38 in 59 1/3 innings. He struck out 60 in 51 1/3 innings in 2004. The big difference was the lack of an effective split-finger fastball. "Last year, it just wasn't there," Connor said. "It was late coming out of his hand and he had trouble getting out front and staying on it. He threw a few good ones, but we're trying to get it consistent. Same with his curveball."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.