SAN FRANCISCO -- Simulated games are big around here these days. Colorado's injured starter trio of Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis and Jose Contreras each threw one Tuesday afternoon, and probably the best news from the Rockies' perspective was that Cook continues to progress well enough that we could see him back on a mound before the regular season.
No need to describe what a boon that would be for the Rockies, who have maintained without their ace since Aug. 22 when an elbow strain sidelined him. Cook is 10-6 with a 4.47 ERA in 25 starts this season.
"He threw the ball fine, physically he's fine," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "I can't tell you he was pinpoint in his pitches, but I didn't expect that. He threw good breaking balls and good sinkers that had that good Aaron Cook depth."
Cook next will throw another simulated game on Saturday and, if all goes well, he'll likely go from there to the Instructional League for more work. In a perfect Colorado world, he'll come back for at least one regular season start and then move into the playoffs with the Rockies.
"I am optimistic," Tracy said. "I'm very optimistic."
The manager said he definitely wants Cook to work a regular season game first, rather than re-joining the team in the playoffs.
"I think anytime you can get him back in the pool before waiting to involve him in really significant things, I that it's huge," Tracy said. "I think it's of utmost importance."
As for the other two, Francis, who has not pitched in 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery, is working toward next year. Contreras' arm is fine but his strained calf remains sketchy. The Rockies are not yet comfortable with him moving quickly off of the mound to field bunts or to cover first base.