Canada listed Francis, 28, on its provisional roster for the World Baseball Classic, but he won't participate. It's unclear if he'll begin the season in the Rockies' rotation.
"It's not as good as it should be this time of year," Francis said. "I've done a lot of shoulder strengthening of the decelerator muscles [small muscles that contract at the end of the pitching motion]. I had some instability and some weaknesses there. That's what we've been working on the last three or four months.
"I need to get healthy. If it takes longer than Opening Day, so be it. I need to be patient with this."
Rockies trainer Keith Dugger said through a team spokesman that Francis continues to have left shoulder inflammation and is on a "rehab throwing program -- the progress is very slow."
If the gradual program produces the desired results, Francis could be a part of a solid rotation when he's ready. Francis, who went 17-9 in 2007 and was the No. 1 pitcher on a team that went to the World Series, and right-handers Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jason Marquis form the leadership of the staff.
"I think our team is really strong this year," Francis said. "The guys we've added are going to be a huge help. We've put our team in a position to win some pretty important games."
Last season went south quickly for Francis. He went 0-1 with a 5.01 ERA in five April starts. Then, he said, the arm began hurting in May. By the time he went to the DL, he was 3-7 with a 5.67 ERA. He pitched better after returning, going 1-3 with a 3.50 ERA in seven starts, but was never healthy.
To return to his 2007 form, Francis said he needs more than health.
"Fastball command is what I live on," he said. "If I can do that, I can pitch.
"Winning 17 games was something that I did because I had a good team around me, and I was able to put a string of good starts together. I look around and we've still got a good team. If I can get healthy and put some quality starts together, I don't think hat's too far away."