DENVER -- Jeff Francis found it hard to be glum even on such a gloomy day.
The Colorado Rockies' left-hander is set to return to the mound in a major league game Sunday against Washington for the first time since Sept. 12, 2008.
That was reason enough to brighten his day.
Francis missed the 2009 season after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, then started this season on the disabled list after straining the area beneath his left armpit in his last appearance of spring training.
"This has been a long time coming," Francis said. "It's definitely been a while since the last time I pitched."
Before Francis' day arrives, though, the Rockies and Nationals will play a day-night doubleheader Saturday after Friday night's game was postponed due to steady rain at Coors Field.
Later that evening, Luis Atilano and Jason Hammel will square off. This will be Hammel's first start since leaving a game on April 26 with a strained right groin and going on the disabled list the next day.
"Fifteen days is a long time to sit, knowing that you're not really helping the team," Hammel said.
Hammel set career highs in wins (10), starts (30) and innings (176 2-3) for the Rockies last season. But he's struggled this year, starting 0-2 with a 9.16 ERA.
While he was sidelined, Hammel revisited some of his starts from 2009, just to get a feel for what he was doing then.
"You can't stay down on yourself, just have to keep working hard," Hammel said. "It's a roller-coaster and 162 games is a long time to be mad at yourself."
It's also a long time to sit on the sideline, the way Francis was forced to do last season when the Rockies made the NL playoffs as the wild card.
"Selfishly, it was tough. I would've liked to have been out there," Francis said. "This team did some great things. I hope I can be a part of that this year."
Francis had an up-and-down spring before finally putting the pieces together in his final outing. The next day, though, he tried to play catch but couldn't because his arm was too sore.
"I was looking forward to being back on this team, wasn't even thinking about (the arm)," said Francis, who won 17 games in 2007 when Colorado advanced to the World Series. "I felt like the rug had been taken out from under me a little bit. That was probably a low, knowing it would take a little bit more work to get back to this point. ... Being on that mound again is going to be a good feeling."
Weather permitting, that is.
Rain has been hampering play at Coors Field in recent days, leading to a rainout Tuesday night against Philadelphia and then the postponement of the second game of a split doubleheader Wednesday. That game has yet to be rescheduled.
On Thursday, the Rockies and Nationals had to endure two separate weather delays in Washington's 14-6 rain-shortened win. The game started 37 minutes late as a storm cell passed through the area and was halted for 40 minutes after the eighth inning before umpires finally decided to call it.
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is glad both sides didn't have to wait out any delays Friday night.
"We're here, you're kind of ready to play and all that. But it's great that they called it early instead of taking some chances, getting some people warmed up, playing intermittently," Riggleman said. "It's a good decision."
Before the game was scratched Friday, lefty John Lannan sat in a chair in the clubhouse with an ice pack wrapped tightly around his arm.
Lannan experienced some tightness while pitching the night before, but said after playing catch Friday that he "feels fine" and that he plans to make his next start.
"I'm pretty confident it's going to go away," said Lannan, who skipped his scheduled start last Saturday with a sore elbow. "I'm just hoping for the best and I'm pretty sure I'm going to kick this thing."