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Braves notebook: Francoeur returns to lineup

POSTED: June 27, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA — The numbers tell the story of Jeff Francoeur's hitting funk.

Francoeur was back in the Braves' starting lineup on Monday night after having an off day on Sunday. Manager Bobby Cox said Francoeur needed the day off rest his sore arm and hand, but it may have been more important the right fielder have the chance to take a mental break.

Francoeur has been on a steady decline, hitting .277 in April, .236 in May and .222 in June before Monday night's game against Milwaukee. He was only 4-for-24 (.167) in the last week, including an 0-for-8 streak that dropped his average to .246 before taking only his second day off this season.

He was 0-for-3 Monday night, dropping his average to .243.

Francoeur has tried to remain upbeat. He hit .293 with 19 homers last season while topping 100 RBIs for the second straight year. He talked in spring training of trying to reclaim his power stroke of his 2006 rookie season, when he hit 29 homers, but instead he has only eight homers.

With little power and a poor batting average, Francoeur is looking for help. The problem may be that too many suggestions are coming from too many sources — including concerned fans — outside the team.

"I think I'm listening to so many people ... by the time I get to the box I'm confused," Francoeur said Monday. "You've got to be clear."

Francoeur has tinkered with his batting stance. He thought he was holding the bat in his hands too far behind his head, so he moved his down near his chest. That didn't work, so he moved the hands back up closer to his head.

"I'm either out in front by a little bit or behind by a little bit," he said.

Through the experiments, Francoeur sometimes looks lost at the plate. Fans have noticed.

Some fans have started to turn on Francoeur, the local favorite from Parkview High near Atlanta.

"It's the first time in a long time I've heard some boos," he said, "but I'm staying positive the best I can."

Francoeur says it is important he shake out of the slump as Chipper Jones, recovering from a quadriceps injury, was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game.

"I know they need me to do what I've done the last two years, and I know I can get back to that," Francoeur said.

"It's been tough."

KOTSAY TO BEGIN REHAB ASSIGNMENT

Mark Kotsay, who has been out since May 26 with a lower back strain, will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday at Double-A Mississippi. The Braves hope he will be ready to rejoin the team for their July 1 start of a homestand against Philadelphia.

LONG WAIT FOR GLAVINE

Tom Glavine, who was placed on the disabled list for the second time this season on June 11 with a left elbow strain, has been told to rest the elbow for four to six weeks. The timetable includes total rest for the first two weeks before he begins strengthening exercises.

Glavine said two MRI exams have confirmed the ligament in the elbow is strong. The problem is the flexor tendon pulling away from the bone.

Glavine said he faces a possible difficult decision if he's not able to pitch by the All-Star break: Would he have surgery to give himself enough time to recover and pitch in 2009, or would he wait longer on the hopes of pitching later this season?

Glavine signed with the Braves for only one season and has not yet committed to pitching after this year. He is 2-3 with a 4.85 ERA in 12 starts.

GOOD NEWS FROM CHIPPER

Chipper Jones passed along word before Monday night's game that his strained right quadriceps felt better, though still not good enough to play.

Even if Jones misses the Milwaukee series, there is reason to resist the temptation to place him on the disabled list.

"It may be that Chipper hopefully will be able to DH some in Toronto," Cox said.

The Braves will need a designated hitter when they open a weekend series at Toronto on Friday night.

Jones, who aggravated the injury Friday night, drove in a run with a key pinch-hit single on Saturday night against Seattle. He leads the major leagues with his .393 batting average.

Omar Infante, who filled in for Yunel Escobar at shortstop on Saturday and Sunday, started at third base for Jones on Monday night as Escobar returned from a hip injury.



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