Setting Francoeur up for the regular season
Am I right with my assumption that those of you who predicted that Jeff Francoeur would homer and draw a pair of walks in his first three plate appearances today are also the same people who predicted that Northern Iowa would beat Kansas?
Francoeur soured Tommy Hanson’s five-inning performance on Tuesday afternoon with a solo homer that easily cleared the center field wall in the fourth inning.
“We were just setting him up for the regular season,” joked Braves catcher Brian McCann.
Francoeur’s second homer of the year accounted for one of the four hits surrendered by Hanson, who allowed two earned runs, recorded five strikeouts and issued three walks during this 91-pitch effort.
Slated to go six innings, Hanson was lifted after five innings because of his pitch count.
“My arm feels good and I didn’t feel tired one bit,” Hanson said. “It’s good to throw that many pitches and still feel good. I think it’s another start and another step in the right direction getting ready for the season.”
Hanson will make one more start in Florida and then likely throw just three or four innings while making his final appearance of the exhibition season against the White Sox at Turner Field on April 2.
Heyward update: After reaching base safely during each of his first 12 games of the year, Jason Heyward hasn’t reached first base in either of his past two games. He is hitless in his past seven at-bats and he has struck out in three of his past five plate appearances.
This mini-slump shouldn’t cause any reason for concern. But it will be more important to monitor what Heyward does during these final two weeks of the exhibition season, when he finds himself facing more Major League-caliber pitchers than he did during the previous couple of weeks.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said that the club hasn’t made a firm decision regarding whether Heyward will begin the season in Atlanta.
But whenever asked about the remaining position battles, the club’s officials often just mention the battle being waged between Joe Thurston and Brooks Conrad.
“There’s still 13 days left before Opening Day,” Wren said regarding Heyward. “So we just want to continue to watch and monitor and make sure that we’re doing what’s best for him and for us.”
Tim Hudson will be on the mound when the Braves return to Disney tomorrow afternoon to face J.A. Happ and the Phillies. This game, which will be televised by ESPN, will also include an appearance by Jo-Jo Reyes, who is fighting for a spot in the Braves bullpen.