Heyward has earned Francoeur's admiration
Braves' former right fielder happy for phenom's success
NEW YORK -- When it came time for Brian McCann to travel to Citi Field for Friday night's series opener against the Mets, the catcher called his childhood friend, Jeff Francoeur, and essentially said, "Hey, come pick me up."
Francoeur ended up bringing McCann, Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward from the Braves' hotel in Manhattan to his new office in Queens. The Mets' right fielder said that like many others in the baseball world, he has enjoyed watching Heyward find success during the early days of his career.
"They've got a superstar on their hands there," Francoeur said. "It's worked out great for him there, and it's worked out great for me."
When the Braves traded Francoeur in July, they did so because of the offensive struggles he had endured over the previous year and a half. But at the same time, they knew they'd soon need to open the right-field spot for Heyward, who at the time was firmly establishing himself as the game's top prospect.
Because they share the same agent, Francoeur and Heyward have spoken in the past. But still, Atlanta's 20-year-old phenom showed his easygoing, quiet approach when one of his predecessors drove him to work on Friday.
"He said like three words," Francoeur said. "He's having fun, and that's what is going to help him have success and not go through the roller-coaster ride that I went through. He's very, very mature for his age."
Escobar, Glaus out of lineup for Mets opener
NEW YORK -- Shortstop Yunel Escobar displayed questionable effort on opposite ends of double-play grounders that hurt his club during its losses to the Phillies on Wednesday and Thursday.
But when manager Bobby Cox explained the construction of his lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Mets, he told reporters that Escobar -- as well as his struggling first baseman, Troy Glaus -- were absent simply because they needed a chance to rest.
With Escobar and Glaus out of the lineup, Cox gave Omar Infante his first start of the season at shortstop and used Eric Hinske as his starting first baseman for the third time this year.
"Infante hasn't played in a long time and Hinske, it's been a while since he played," Cox said.
Though the ever-loyal and supportive Cox has never expressed any displeasure, Escobar drew the ire of some of the Braves' coaches and players when he didn't make a better effort to field a double-play feed delivered by Martin Prado during the Phillies' three-run third inning on Thursday night.
Prado was charged with the error, which prevented Derek Lowe from potentially escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam without any damage. But it appeared that Escobar could have cleanly fielded the ball, which hit his glove, had he not been preparing to show some flash by making the double-play turn while jumping over the oncoming runner.
The night before, with the bases loaded and just one out in the seventh inning of the 2-0 loss to Roy Halladay, Escobar rapped a sharp grounder that hit the mound and landed in the glove of a diving Chase Utley, who then turned a nifty double play with Juan Castro. The Phils also got some help from Escobar, who was clocked at a pedestrian 4.54 seconds down the first-base line.
When asked if he had been told that he was simply getting a chance to rest, Escobar, who speaks minimal English, shrugged and said, "I don't know nothing."
Wagner has fond memories of time with Mets
NEW YORK -- When Billy Wagner signed with the Mets before the start of the 2006 season, there was reason to wonder how a country boy from Virginia would enjoy pitching and living within the fast-paced life that New York City presents.
But as Wagner sat in the Braves' dugout before Friday night's game at Citi Field, it was apparent that he had developed a good relationship with the executives, stadium workers and media members he encountered during his four seasons with the Mets.
"The thing I liked most about playing here was that you always had to be ready to play," Wagner said. "It's not just the fans, but the media, too. You always had to be on your 'A' game. It gets very taxing, but it was exciting and a lot of fun."
Wagner successfully converted 101 of the 118 save opportunities he had during his first three seasons with the Mets, then missed most of the 2009 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 38-year-old closer has allowed three hits and two earned runs in the six innings he has pitched for the Braves this year.
Chipper hopes a birthday bash awaits
NEW YORK -- As Chipper Jones was sitting at his locker before Friday night's game against the Mets, a New York reporter approached him and mentioned that he looked young for his age. The third baseman smiled and said, "That's because I shaved today."
Jones will turn 38 on Saturday and attempt to prolong the success he has encountered on this day, as the Braves have won nine of the 10 games he has played on his birthday. During these games, he has combined to hit .439 (18-for-41) with four homers and 10 RBIs.
"The one game we lost, I went deep twice," said Jones in reference to the two-homer performance he produced against Shane Reynolds in an 11-6 loss to the Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 24, 2001.
Jones' four career "birthday homers" put him one shy of the all-time Major League record shared by Al Simmons, Alex Rodriguez and Derrek Lee.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.