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Braves send Francoeur down to work on hitting

Outfielder's struggles have dropped his average to .234

POSTED: July 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press

Atlanta Braves' Jeff Francoeur, right, is greeted by teammate Brian McCann after hitting a two-run home run June 12 against Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. There weren't too many other highlights for Francoeur in June, however. After he hit .206 for the month, the Braves sent him to Class AA Mississippi on Friday to work on his stroke.

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ATLANTA -- Slumping Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur was sent to the minors to work on his hitting, with his average having dropped to .234.

Francoeur was booed at home Thursday night when he went 0-for-4. He hit .206 in June and is 1-for-12 in three games this month.

"It seems I can't catch a break, or when I feel I start to roll I just can't get things to keep rolling my way," Francoeur said.

The Braves hope Francoeur can relax at Double-A Mississippi and sharpen his mechanics. The plan is for Francoeur to rejoin the team following the All-Star break.

"We're to the point now where we're trying to break him down and get him to do a couple things different," hitting coach Terry Pendleton said. "That's going to take some time. ... Once you start thinking, for a guy like him, it gets worse."

Francoeur was expected to join Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann in the middle of the lineup but was dropped to seventh in the batting order. Francoeur hit .293 with 19 homers and drove in 105 runs last season. This year, he has eight homers and 41 RBIs.

The boos are unusual for Francoeur, a local favorite who signed with the Braves from Parkview High School near Atlanta.

"I feel for him," Jones said. "He's never struggled up until this point. Ever. He's always been the chosen one. But this game will humble you. He's got a million hitting coaches right now. What he needs to do is just go back to the basics."

Jones said the slump has affected Francoeur's mental approach.

"I'd like to see a little more of the enthusiasm he showed early on in his career," Jones said. "He's really down on himself right now and I think it will help him come out of it a little faster if he doesn't take the game as seriously."

Francoeur has tinkered with his stance and tried a new contact lens to help his vision at night.

Matt Diaz, who also began the season as a starting outfielder, will join Francoeur at Mississippi. He is recovering from a knee injury and is on a rehab assignment.

The Braves open a three-game home series tonight against Houston at Turner Field.



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