Braves mulling Francoeur move
Club hesitant to send popular outfielder to Minor Leagues
ATLANTA -- Next Monday will mark the third anniversary of Jeff Francoeur's Major League debut. All indications are that he'll still be in the Majors at that time.
But as his offensive struggles have continued, he's given Braves management more reason to at least continue evaluating the potential circumstances of sending him back to the Minor Leagues.
Because the National League East first-place Phillies sent Brett Myers back to the Minors on Tuesday with the hope that he'd regain his successful pitching form, there was at least some talk at Turner Field on Wednesday regarding the possibility of Francoeur encountering the same fate.
While a team official at least confirmed there has been discussion about sending Francoeur to the Minors to rediscover his lost swing, there was no indication that this was an imminent possibility.
One primary reason that the Braves haven't shipped Francoeur back to the Minors is the potential backlash they might receive from their fans, who have remained faithful to No. 7, despite the fact that he entered Wednesday night's game against the Phillies hitting just .239 with a .294 on-base percentage and .383 slugging percentage.
"I'd like to see a little more of the enthusiasm he showed early in his career," Chipper Jones said. "He's really down on himself right now and I think he'll come out of it a little faster if he doesn't take the game as seriously as he is."
Even before he homered in his Major League debut on July 7, 2005, Francoeur was a favorite among Braves fans. Growing up in suburban Atlanta, he was named the high school Player of the Year for Georgia in both football and baseball.
"This is really the first time he's ever struggled," said Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann, who has been Francouer's best friend since they were 12 years old. The only three qualified NL outfielders with a lower OPS (on-base plus-slugging-percentage) than Francoeur's mark of .677 are Houston's Michael Bourn, Los Angeles' Juan Pierre and Colorado's Willy Taveras, who are all known primarily for their speed.
"Everybody goes through slumps," McCann said. "You have to try to catch what you're doing wrong mechanically before it snowballs. That's why this game, to me, is the toughest sport to play. It's every day."
After hitting .293 last year, Francoeur entered this season hoping to keep that consistency, while improving his power and bidding for a third consecutive season with at least 100 RBIs.
But in his past 72 games entering Wednesday, the 24-year-old outfielder had hit .229 with a .291 on-base percentage and a .351 slugging percentage. There was some hope that he was turning the corner when he recorded consecutive multihit games on June 12-13.
But over the next 16 games, Francoeur hit .138 with a .206 on-base percentage and a .155 slugging percentage.
"It's tough to see him go through it," McCann said. "But you see what kind of guy you are when you are struggling, and he's still trying to stay upbeat. Everybody around here knows that he's working as hard as he can. It would be one thing if he wasn't at least trying."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.