TORONTO — The thrill of being called up to the majors never gets old for Canadian Jeff Francis.
The Blue Jays picked up the 34-year-old left-hander’s contract from triple-A Buffalo on Sunday while optioning left-handed pitcher Colt Hynes to the Bisons. Francis, a 10-year major-league veteran, signed a minor-league deal with Toronto in the off-season and was assigned to the International League club out of spring training.
"I don’t think it matters what point you are in your career, it’s a thrill when the manager calls and gives you the news," the North Delta, B.C, native said prior to Toronto’s home game against the Atlanta Braves. "It’s like you’re 23 again and I think the fact I know a lot of these guys from spring training makes an easier transition for me."
Francis’ callup gives the Blue Jays three Canadians on their roster. The others are catcher Russell Martin, a Toronto native who grew up in the Montreal area, and outfielder Dalton Pompey of Mississauga, Ont.
"It’s neat, especially here when you’re playing with the Maple Leaf on your chest," Francis said. "It’s a thrill.
"I find myself here, who knows for how long? I’ve played long enough that I think it’s another opportunity for me to play baseball. The thrill of playing for the Blue Jays is something maybe I can think about after it’s all said and done."
Francis was 1-0 with Buffalo, allowing two hits and two walks while fanning five over five shutout innings in his only start. The six-foot-five, 200-pound Francis is set to become the 22nd Canadian-born player to appear in a game with Toronto.
Francis has a career record of 71-80 with a 4.95 earned-run average in 240 games — including 217 starts — with Colorado, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Oakland and the New York Yankees. Francis said a nomadic existence is simply a part of life in pro baseball.
"There are difficult things about it but this is why we do this, this is why we play," he said. "This is where you want to be, this is what you work for.
"Nobody can complain."
Francis had a banner ’07 campaign with Colorado, winning 17 games and leading the franchise into the playoffs. On Oct. 3, he became the first Canadian starter to win a major league post-season contest by beating the Philadelphia Phillies in his first career playoff appearance.
Three weeks later, he became just the second Canadian starter to pitch in the World Series. But Francis allowed six runs over four innings as eventual champion Boston captured a 13-1 victory.
Francis is expected to come out of the bullpen with Toronto after Todd Redmond was designated for assignment. He could also see spot duty as a starter although Francis admits the Jays haven’t really told him of their plans just yet.
"You’re in the ‘pen when they need you," he said. "With the state of the bullpen as it is, it can be a revolving-door situation so you try to make the best of the opportunities you get."
Hynes, 29, appeared in five games this season with Toronto. He had no decisions with an earned-run average of 6.00.