New team, new stance for Francoeur

New team, new stance for Francoeur

WASHINGTON -- After Jeff Francoeur thumped a ninth-inning home run -- his first as a Met -- on Monday at Nationals Park, he jogged back to the dugout and received a large smile and embrace from Gary Sheffield.

"Sheff was more happy with the home run [than I was]," Francoeur said.

Since he was traded to the Mets from Atlanta on July 10, Francoeur has gotten back into the swing of things by learning a new swing, courtesy of Sheffield and some other helpful teammates.

David Wright, manager Jerry Manuel, hitting coach Howard Johnson and Sheffield have all imparted knowledge on Francoeur, in hopes that the 25-year-old can return to his 2006-07 form, when he drove in 208 runs during the two-year stretch.

Francouer has showed early returns from his new approach, albeit a small sample size, batting .363 (12-for-33) with seven RBIs in eight games with the Mets, including two hits in Tuesday's 4-0 loss against Washington.

"Hopefully, this is what we get," Manuel said. "He's the type of guy, where it looks like if he does get right, he can carry a club."

Before the All-Star break, Francoeur hit five home runs and had a .358 slugging percentage -- the worst first-half numbers of his four full seasons in the Majors.

Sheffield instructed Francoeur to keep his top hand firm as he approaches the ball, and Johnson focused on Francoeur keeping his bottom hand on the correct path through the strike zone, so the bat can remain in the zone as long as possible.

Johnson also noticed that the occasionally fidgety Francoeur was rushing his swing.

"We're trying to attack his timing, making sure he's not being rushed," Johnson said. "It has a lot to do with how soon he's ready, slowing him down that way. If we take care of that problem, he should see the ball clearer and not be so rushed at the plate."

Since Francoeur had been tardy during the loading phase of his swing, he had to overcompensate by making his top hand dominate the action of his cuts. So Johnson told him to "just go up there comfortably, relaxed, take a nice easy stride and get that front foot down before the ball is out of the pitcher's hand."

"I know these guys want to work with me and try to get me back to where I can be and help this ballclub," said Francoeur, who was acquired in exchange for outfielder Ryan Church. "It's just different voices, different ways to work things sometimes."

The team isn't concerned with opening or closing Francoeur's stance, but the outfielder said he is spreading his legs out more in the box. He is making incremental changes until a combination presents sustained success.

"You can't teach the bat speed that kid's got; you can't teach the athleticism that he has," Johnson said. "Those things are God-given. He has allowed his mind to open up and think about some things. Fortunately for us, he's had good success. He trusts what we're telling him."

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (7-5, 5.07 ERA)
Pelfrey was absolutely ineffective Friday night against the Braves. "I don't think I hit a spot all night," he said. "I feel bad for the people who had to play behind me. It was embarrassing." He lost for the third time in five starts, allowing the nine runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, and a walk. Pelfrey had allowed merely six home runs in his first 100 2/3 innings this season, then two in a three-batter sequence. He allowed three runs in two innings and four in another. Now he faces the Nationals, a team he defeated once this season -- allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings at Citi Field on April 25. He had a 2-3 record and 3.68 ERA against them before this season.

WSH: RHP Craig Stammen (2-5, 4.46 ERA)
Stammen posted his third straight quality start on Friday against the Cubs, but he absorbed the loss. A couple of mistakes did in the rookie right-hander. With two on and two out in the second inning, he allowed Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano to belt a two-run double down the right-field line. An inning later, again with two outs, he threw a sinker that didn't sink to Aramis Ramirez, who deposited it into the bleachers for a solo home run. Stammen got through six innings, giving up those three runs and striking out two.

Tidbits
Francoeur has six multihit efforts in his past nine games. ... On Tuesday, the Mets were shut out for the ninth time this season. They are 13-37 when scoring four runs or fewer. They have scored five runs or fewer 13 times in the past 18 games.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
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•  Official game notes

On television
• SNY

On radio
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Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Mets (Johan Santana, 11-7, 2.92) at Astros (Mike Hampton, 5-7, 4.63), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Mets (TBD) at Astros (Russ Ortiz, 3-4, 4.33), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mark Selig is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.