Cook has smooth return to action

Cook has smooth return to action

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Without regular-season intensity, Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook rarely threw his fastball as hard as he could Monday afternoon. It worked so well that he's going to have to figure out how to stay so nice and easy when the real season, and the adrenaline, arrives.

In his first Cactus League appearance since March 3, Cook lasted five innings and gave up two runs on three hits, with four strikeouts, in a 4-2 victory over the Giants at Hi Corbett Field.

It was a smooth, 65-pitch outing for Cook, who was scratched from a March 7 start with shoulder tightness and made a Minor League start Wednesday. Cook relies on staying lower in the strike zone and is especially effective when his pitches are moving the way they did Monday.

"It's kind of nice, because I'm learning to let off the throttle a little bit," Cook said. "Today, when I got into the third or fourth inning, I felt like I'd gotten into a really nice rhythm -- 85-90 percent on a fastball, it gets a lot more movement.

"It's one of those things when you get into trouble, how are you going to react. With me, I always get into trouble with trying to do more. But there's always that test once you start the season."

Left-hander Jeff Francis, whose start Sunday afternoon was rained out, threw three innings and gave up one unearned run in a game between Rockies Minor Leaguers on Monday. Francis struck out three and walked one. He worked on his curveball against left-handed hitters and escaped a jam in which he had a runner at third and no outs.

The Rockies kept Francis to about 55 pitches and will bring him back to pitch on three days' rest to keep him in line to start the season opener, on the road against the Cardinals on March 31.

In that Minor League game, left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes gave up two hits and struck out two in 1 1/3 innings, and righty reliever Matt Herges gave up one run and one hit in one inning. Herges also walked one and threw a wild pitch.

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