08/16/12 11:17 PM ET
Braves see potential in third baseman Francisco
By Mark Bowman and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
Since acquiring Francisco in a trade just four days before the start of the regular season, the Braves have gained confidence in their assessment. The 25-year-old third baseman has spent the past six weeks working with hitting coach Greg Walker on a daily basis and also making the changes necessary to take approximately five pounds off his frame.
"I need to lose 10 to 15 more pounds before next year," Francisco said.
This simple goal demonstrates Francisco has committed himself since being challenged during a meeting with one of the team's executives in early July. Since then he has worked with Walker to gain a better feel for the strike zone and to attempt to rid himself of the habit of opening up with his front foot.
The results have been visible. The weight loss has created a little more mobility at third base. The time spent with Walker has helped Francisco hit .444 (12-for-27) with four doubles and a home run in the 13 games he has played dating back to July 21.
With Eric Hinske hitting just .122 in 82 at-bats dating back to May 5, Francisco has become the Braves' primary left-handed pinch-hitter. In addition, he has played third base well enough to at least make himself an option to potentially serve as Chipper Jones' successor next year.
"He's been great, we didn't have that last year," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think he has eased Chipper's mind by making him think when he's not in the lineup, 'Hey, we're going to be all right,' and we have been."
Francisco has compiled 151 at-bats this season. While bouncing back and forth between Minor League stints, he had totaled 169 big league at-bats with Cincinnati the three previous seasons.
Before being anointed Jones' successor, Francisco will likely need to lose a few more pounds and prove that he can hit left-handed pitchers. He has recorded seven hits in just 35 at-bats against left-handers this season.
Chipper's 2nd blast of game nets hit No. 2,700
ATLANTA -- On the final Chipper Jones Bobblehead Day of his career, Jones said he thinks about the finality of this season every day. With his retirement only a couple months away, Jones said he is savoring every moment he can.
"At some point, whether it's rounding the bases or walking out to the car after a game, I'm saying to myself, 'You better cherish it, it might be the last time,'" Jones said. "You never know when that last homer's going to be, when that last hit's going to be."
On Thursday, there were a few moments for the 40-year-old to remember. Jones hit two home runs in his first three at-bats of the game, bringing his career hit total to 2,700. His first multihomer game of the season gave him 466 career home runs, pushing him past Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and into 32nd place on the all-time list.
Jones finished the night 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs, and the Braves beat the Padres, 6-0.
While Jones was named to the All-Star Game last month and is putting together his best year since winning the National League batting title in 2008, he again reiterated he has no intention to rethink his retirement.
"Nights like tonight are really cool and I'll never forget them," he said. "But I'm ready to do something else."
Before Thursday's game, Jones said there was "nothing" that could change his mind about hanging up his cleats at the end of the year.
"Do I think I can come back next year and play? Yes," Jones said. "I don't want to. That's what people don't get. I've made promises to the most important people in my life, and I'm not going back on that promise."
Jones said he wants to be in the Braves' lineup as much as possible. Nagging injuries have prevented him from playing more than five games in a row this season and he said five games may even be too much for his body, depending on how active his in the game.
With the pennant race heating up, Jones said he has to remain mindful of the big picture. So while he wants to play, he knows it's more important to stay fresh for the Braves' biggest games of the season.
"I want to play every home game," Jones said. "Through texting and through Twitter, people tell me all the time 'We're coming to games and we hope you're playing, and this is the last time we'll get to see you play.' I take that to heart. But there are just times when I can't do it."
While making a rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday night in Norfolk, Va., Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens left the game in the third inning due to dehydration. Jurrjens, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 1 with a right groin strain, spent the night in the hospital. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Jurrjens is expected to make his next rehab start on schedule.