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Francoeur smashes one deep in Braves’ loss


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Francoeur smashes one deep in Braves’ loss

By DAVID O'BRIEN

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lakeland, Fla. — Even as Jeff Francoeur made good contact, avoided strikeouts and gave the Braves plenty of reason for optimism, for much of spring training his power was absent.

The right fielder wasn’t too concerned, because of what he was told by a hitting coach when he revamped his swing this winter. Francoeur believed power would come, and it looks like it might be.

He hit a mammoth two-run homer to left field off Jeremy Bonderman in the first inning of Sunday’s 5-4 Braves loss to Detroit. It was Francoeur’s first of the spring after two other potential homers got held up in windy conditions this past week.

“When I worked with Rudy [Jaramillo], he told me it would take a little bit of time,” Francoeur said, referring to Texas hitting coach that he worked with in November.

“And I talked to [braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton] about it and he said you’ve got to get comfortable, that when you change up a stance you’re not just going to come out there hitting balls all over the place. I think I was trying to have such a good effort to make sure I stay up the middle. …

“I’ve got a lot of hits up the middle this spring. You do that, you start to open holes [in the defense]. We’ve played some of these teams two or three times, and I’ve seen the second or third time that I’m starting to open holes that weren’t there for me before.”

It’s been an encouraging spring for Francoeur, trying to bounce back after hitting .239 with 11 homers and 71 RBIs in 2008. He’s hit .333 (18-for-54) and tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs.

“I’m proud of him — his eye is really good right now,” manager Bobby Cox said of the erstwhile free-swinger, who has just two strikeouts with seven walks this spring.

“I’m swinging at good pitches,” Francoeur said. “If I do that, I’m going to hit for average and get power with it.”

Anderson, Kotchman return

The Braves welcomed back two members of their regular lineup Sunday: Garret Anderson had no problems in his Grapefruit League debut after missing 3-1/2 weeks with a strained calf; and Casey Kotchman hit a long home run in his first at-bat after being out 10 days with flu-like symptoms.

“It’s amazing — don’t ask me to explain it,” Cox said of Kotchman’s home run to right-center, which immediately followed Francoeur’s homer to the top of the grass berm beyond left field. “I’m glad [Kotchman] made it through two at-bats. He’s still weak. He lost weight. We’ll ease him in.”

Anderson went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. The veteran left fielder called it a good day because he was able to do what he set out to do — see and track a lot of pitches.

“The last four or five days I haven’t felt anything at all” in his healed calf muscle, he said.

Anderson served as designated hitter Sunday and will DH again Monday against Boston, then decide if he’s ready to play the outfield. Despite having only one week left to get ready, Anderson and Cox said they think the outfielder will be ready for the April 5 season opener.

Pitching matchup

An overflow media contingent is expected for Monday’s Braves game against the Red Sox, when Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to face Braves right-hander Kenshin Kawakami in a matchup of former Japanese League pitching stars.

Former Braves ace John Smoltz also is expected to make the trip with the Red Sox, though Smoltz isn’t pitching in games yet and will begin the season on the disabled list as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. He opted to sign a bigger offer from the Red Sox rather than re-sign this winter with the Braves, the only team he had pitched for in his major league career.

It’s the Grapefruit League spring debut for Matsuzaka, who helped lead Japan’s championship run in the World Baseball Classic.

Between 15 and 30 Japanese media members have covered every start this spring by Kawakami in his first year with the Braves, and Matsuzaka routinely has at least that many chronicling his every move.

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agreed. If frenchy stays on pace, add Shaf, and Heyward and our OF just got nasty in a hurry.

yeah, and we still have Cody Johnson. Who we drafted in 06', dude still Strikes out too much but he can be great trade bait if he gets better.

And we have Gorky- enough said there.

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yeah, and we still have Cody Johnson. Who we drafted in 06', dude still Strikes out too much but he can be great trade bait if he gets better.

And we have Gorky- enough said there.

I am not a big fan of Cody's. I remember him from ECB and remember one of his coachs talking about him.

He hit his other one against one of the WBC teams, which doesn't count towards his totals.

He's having a great Spring. Hopefully he keeps it up. Lord knows we need the production from the OF this year.

Oh ok. Well it may not count on his totals but it still went over the fence so it counts to me. Remember I am one of the Jeff apologist. :lol:

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I don't know how many saw this game but I did and Frenchy is looking awesome. He absolutely murdered that ball. I believe it was on a 3-2 pitch too. Then his 2nd at-bat he hit one all the way to the warning track in straight away right center field. Then his 3rd at-bat walked on a 3-2 pitch. He's zoned in.

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