Franco designated for assignment
Braves choose to keep Thorman after trading for Teixeira
ATLANTA -- With their flurry of acquisitions on Tuesday, the Braves left themselves with a roster dilemma on Wednesday. Finding roster spots for their two new relievers, Ron Mahay and Octavio Dotel, forced them to make two transactions.
Opting to option right-handed reliever Jose Ascanio to Double-A Mississippi didn't provide the same stress as deciding whether to designate either Julio Franco or Scott Thorman for assignment.
Knowing there was a strong chance that Thorman would be claimed by another club and possibly flourish elsewhere in the future, the Braves opted to designate Franco, who had just signed with them after being released by the Mets earlier this month.
Franco, who will celebrate his 49th birthday on Aug. 23, can be claimed off waivers over the course of the next 72 hours. If nobody claims him, he'll have the opportunity to accept a Minor League assignment with the Braves.
If this occurs, the Braves would have the option of utilizing Franco in September, when the Major League rosters expand. Since signing with Atlanta, the ageless wonder has batted .250 (9-for-36) and provided strong defense at first base.
"Julio has been great since we got him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's really perked us up offensively and defensively. He was as good as ever."
Cox said it was difficult to deliver this news to Franco, who has aspirations to continue playing until he's 50.
"It's real hard," Cox said. "The guy is doing great. He's given us a spark."
Because of Chris Woodward's defensive versatility, the Braves decided their only option to create this final roster spot was to designate either Franco or Thorman.
Franco left Turner Field before speaking to reporters on Wednesday. But some of his teammates believe as long as he's not claimed by another organization that he'll accept a Minor League assignment.
When general manager John Schuerholz acquired Mark Teixeira to serve as his first baseman on Tuesday, Franco shared the resulting excitement with his Braves teammates.
"I'm not a selfish player," Franco said Tuesday. "I just want to be part of the ballclub. Whatever we can do to improve the ballclub, I'm happy about."
As the Braves attempt to gain entrance into the postseason, Franco would seemingly be a better asset than Thorman, who has hit .220 this season and .203 since May 1. The 48-year-old's value as a pinch-hitter has seemingly increased in his past seven games, during which he hit .333 (8-for-24) with three doubles and eight RBIs.
But for now, they'll have to hope Thorman proves to be an asset off their bench. Though he has struggled mightily in his first full Major League season, the 25-year-old first baseman would still draw some waiver wire interest from other organizations, especially those who are aware of his history.
Throughout much of his Minor League career, Thorman excelled during his second season at a specific level. He hit .243 at Class A Myrtle Beach in 2003 and then returned to hit .299 in 43 games there during the 2004 season.
Thorman finished the 2004 season at Double-A Greenville, where in 94 games he hit just .252. One year later in 90 games at the Double-A level, he hit .305.
Another theory is that, like many other Canadian prospects, Thorman could prove to be a late bloomer. Reigning American League MVP Justin Morneau, who has played on multiple Canadian national teams with Thorman, also endured some struggles at the beginning of his career.
Through the first 382 at-bats of his career, Thorman is hitting .225 with 15 homers, a .414 slugging percentage and .262 on-base percentage.
During the first 386 at-bats of his career, Morneau hit .259 with 23 homers, a .492 slugging percentage and .326 on-base percentage. But the Twins first baseman also compiled these numbers before he celebrated his 24th birthday.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.