Jeff Francoeur has made the Atlanta Braves’ opening-day roster with an impressive showing in spring training.
The Braves told the 32-year-old outfielder on Tuesday he will be added to their 25-man major league roster.
Under baseball’s labor contract, the Braves were required to decide by Tuesday whether to keep him, release him or pay a $100,000 retention bonus if he was willing to continue with his minor league contract. Francoeur made it clear he wouldn’t go to Triple-A Gwinnett.
Turns out, that wasn’t an issue. Francoeur earned a backup role by hitting .327 with one homer and four RBIs through 19 spring games.
He is back with his hometown team, where he began his career in 2005 as a heralded prospect who made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“For me it’s going to be really cool on Monday running out there back at Turner Field, especially being the last year,” Francoeur said before the Braves played Baltimore in Sarasota.
“I have so many great memories there, not just playing but as a kid going to watch — so running out there on Monday is going to be pretty cool.”
Atlanta opens at home against Washington. Next season, the Braves move to a new park in the suburbs.
By making the roster, Francoeur gets a $1 million, one-year contract and can earn up to $1 million in performance bonuses based on playing time: $200,000 each at 300, 350, 400, 450 and 500 plate appearances.
After a brilliant rookie year followed by two straight 100-RBI seasons, Francoeur’s production dipped badly before he was dealt to the New York Mets in 2009.
He bounced around to five more teams before returning to the Braves, who were impressed with his numbers last season in Philadelphia (.258, 13 homers, 45 RBIs) and knew he would be a positive influence in the clubhouse.
“We gave him an opportunity to come to spring training and perform, and he’s done that. Good for him. He’s done well. He’s performed well,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
“He’s a threat, a guy who can come off the bench and hit left-handed pitching so we’ll use him in that capacity. His track record as a pinch hitter last year was really, really good and he’s a great guy in the clubhouse. He’s going to have some presence in the clubhouse, a lot of leadership and he’s good for us right now.”
By keeping Francoeur, the Braves answered what was likely their final issue among position players this spring. Emilio Bonifacio, who signed a guaranteed $1.25 million deal, but would appear to be the odd man out.
Bonifacio was hitting .271 this spring.