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Francouer's swagger is back
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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jeff Francoeur is showing signs that he has found his power stroke.

The Atlanta Braves outfielder hit a two-run homer and just missed a second in an 8-4 win over Venezuela on Thursday.

Entering the game with only one hit in 11 at-bats this spring, Francouer homered in the third and followed with a long fly ball that was kept in the park by a strong wind.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said that’s the kind of power he’s been looking for from Francoeur, who batted only .239 with 11 homers and 71 RBIs last year.

“He should have had two homers,” Cox said. “He nailed the one that got caught up in the wind. I don’t have any worries about him.”

Venezuela plays Italy in its first game in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday in Toronto. Garret Anderson was 0-for-2 in his first exhibition game with the Braves. He started in left field.

Derek Lowe had another strong outing in his second start of the spring. He pitched three hitless innings, striking out three, though he did give up a run.

“Derek was excellent again,” Cox said. “He had another great day. He’s a big pickup for us.”

The Braves desperately need Francoeur to show the form that made him one of baseball’s most touted prospects when he came up from the minors in 2005 and hit .300 in 70 games. He drove in more than 100 runs in 2006 and ‘07.

“I have a lot of time down here to get it right, and that’s what I am working on,” he said. “It will work itself out.”

Cox said that he hasn’t given up on Francoeur after one poor season.

“He can hit the ball and, look at him, he’s still got that look about him,” he said. “He’s going to be a good ballplayer, I feel it.”

Eric O’Flaherty pitched a scoreless fourth and earned rave reviews from Cox.

O’Flaherty has pitched in 78 games for the Seattle Mariners over the past three seasons, but only seven last year after spending most of the season in the minors. He’s vying for a spot in the Braves bullpen, and Cox considers him the potential left-handed setup man.

“O’Flaherty really opened some eyes,” Cox said. “The only thing keeping him out of it is health. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be really important.”

The Braves trailed 4-3 in the sixth after Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run single, but they rallied with a five-run seventh, highlighted by a three-run double from Barbaro Canizares.

Notes: Tom Glavine threw batting practice for the first time since re-signing with the Braves. Cox said the 42-year-old left-hander looked sharp. ... Jo-Jo Reyes, Jeff Bennett, Boone Logan, Manny Acosta and Phil Stockman are scheduled to pitch today against the Houston Astros.

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