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Francoeur returns with no regrets

POSTED: July 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.

LOS ANGELES — Jeff Francoeur rejoined the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, a little humbled but in no way contrite regarding the harsh things he said when he was sent to the minors.

"I’m excited to be back and help this team," Francoeur said at his locker before batting practice. "Everything that’s happened the last four days, I’m going to try to put behind me and move on because I don’t think it’s going to do any good to talk about it or think about it."

Francoeur, who played in every game for the Braves in 2006 and 2007, was demoted to Double-A Mississippi on Friday with a .234 batting average, eight homers and 41 RBIs in 85 games. General manager Frank Wren said he felt the 24-year-old needed some time to regain the stroke that enabled Francoeur to average 24 homers and 104 RBIs over the previous two seasons.

While in Mississippi, Francoeur told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he felt "betrayed" by the Double-A assignment. He also said he expected more of an explanation than he got after playing every day for two years.

"Not one thing that I said do I regret," Francoeur said. "Obviously, a lot of it’s emotion, but a lot of it is how I felt. Was it right to sent me down? I didn’t think so, and that was my opinion."

Under baseball’s rules, Francoeur would have had to spend 10 days in the minors unless he was called back up to replace an injured player. That’s what happened Monday when infielder-outfielder Omar Infante went on the DL along with pitchers Jeff Bennett and Manny Acosta.

Manager Bobby Cox had a difficult time telling Francoeur he was going to the minors.

"It was awful. Not good," Cox said. "He didn’t quite understand why. I don’t see why it wouldn’t help him in the long run. It should. He got a chance to try a few things without the pressure of helping us win a game."

Francoeur, who won his first Gold Glove last year, has been hobbled this season by a sore right ankle — which helps explain his difficulties at the plate. But he isn’t using that as an excuse.

"I’m going to do the best I can," said Francoeur, who already has had two cortisone shots in his ankle. "I know Bobby’s behind me and I know these guys are behind me. It was tough being down there having to watch them on TV... But I’m back now, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to doing what I can do."

Francoeur was 7-for-13 (.548) with two RBIs in three games at Mississippi, including a four-hit game on Sunday.

When asked if the brief demotion was beneficial in any way, he said: "It’s hard to tell. I mean, I know my swing is back to where I want it. I felt like I kind of had it close to that before.

"It definitely cleared my mind a little bit and helped me to relax. I got some hits, I got some confidence, and hopefully I can carry it over."



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