Left-hander went 13-11 last season

DENVER -- Jeff Francis was happy the Colorado Rockies gave him a long-term deal that covers his salary arbitration years.

"I think at this point in my career, it's a huge thing and an exciting thing for them to come to me when they don't have to," Francis said Thursday after the team finalized a $13.25 million, four-year contract, a deal that includes a $7 million team option for 2011.

Francis, who would have been eligible for arbitration after the 2007 season, was a key part of a surprisingly strong Colorado rotation last season, going 13-11 with a 4.16 ERA. The Rockies were contenders in the first half but then stumbled to another last-place finish in the NL West, finishing 76-86.

"We showed a glimpse of what we can do, and if we keep getting better, there will be good things happening," Francis said. "Hopefully, we can all stay together. There's no question how much talent we have on the field. If we jell together, there's no telling how far we can go."

Francis didn't think about the big money possible in the major leagues as he worked his way up through the minors.

"I think when you're in the minor leagues, your only goal is to get there. I don't think dollar figures come into it," he said.

Francis became the Rockies' winningest career left-hander last season. He pitched his first career shutout at home against St. Louis on July 24, when he was perfect through five innings and gave up just two hits.

Coors Field, long a terror to pitchers, lost some of its sting last year. For Francis, the keys to success in Denver are no different than at any other ballpark: Keep the ball down and avoid walks. The difference is that mistakes at Coors often hurt pitchers.

"They're exposed quickly," he said.

Francis said he's happy with the Rockies' management.

"They stuck with us," he said. "They've given us a chance to go out there and improve and go out win games. That's not something we can knock."