NEW YORK -- Turns out the injury Jeff Francoeur essentially ignored last summer restricted him far less than the surgery he underwent to repair it. He acknowledged as much Monday night, five weeks after doctors mended the tear in the collateral in his left thumb.
The Mets' right fielder has suffered no setbacks since the surgery Nov. 2 and is on schedule to be ready for Spring Training. But after playing 36 games despite the injury, he has been shut down by the surgery. No baseball, of course. But no golf, either. And golf can be a year-round activity in Duluth, Ga., where he lives.
"To be honest, it's been a little tougher than I thought it'd be," Francoeur said Monday. "They don't want me doing anything for a while."
So he has become something of a couch potato, forced to watch any and every football telecast. Or attend the Alabama-Florida game Saturday.
"Yeah, it's real been tough," Francoeur, an avowed "SEC guy," said.
The cast was removed from his hand last week, so he now is able to do some initial therapy work, occasionally wrapping the thumb around a glass with ice or a cold bottle. Francoeur is to have his thumb checked late this week when he and his wife, Catie, return to New York for some in-season home hunting, exposure to 5th Avenue Christmas and for him to serve as Santa at the Mets' holiday party.
He'll carry the toy sack with his right hand.
Like so many Mets of recent vintage and contrary to what most Mets of 1970s and '80s preferred, Francoeur will live in Manhattan. The country boy from the South has embraced the pulse of the big city.
"People at home ask how I like it, I tell them, 'It's great,'" Francoeur said. "You know, when I came to town with the Braves, we were in and out in three days. You'd get up at 11, eat and go the ballpark. You never saw the city. There's so much there."
Rule of thumb
Jeff Francoeur's stats during the '09 season
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Come early January -- during the bowl game telecasts -- Francoeur will begin to swing a bat. He anticipates visiting batting coach Howard Johnson in Florida in mid-January for some one-on-one tutoring, similar to what David Wright had last month.
And sometime between now and then, he and his agent will negotiate a contract with the Mets. Francoeur, who earned $3,375,00 last season, is eligible for salary arbitration for the second time. Speculation before the trade that moved him to the Mets on July 10 was the Braves were considering non-tendering Francoeur, a move that probably wouldn't have been well-received in his hometown. But the trade happened, Francoeur had a renaissance run of two months, brought life to the occasionally moribund Mets clubhouse and prompted the club to see him as a piece of the future.
The Mets indicated in September their intention was to offer him a three-year deal -- his first multiyear contract.
"The city, the team, the clubhouse," Francoeur said. "It's been great. I like it."
Francoeur frequently joked that he would forego surgery because his swing seemed to improve after the injury. From that point forward, he batted .319 with a .493 slugging percentage with 17 RBIs, four home runs and 12 doubles in 138 at-bats. His overall production in 289 at-bats with the Mets included a .311 average, a .498 slugging percentage, 41 RBIs, 10 home runs, 20 doubles and two triples.
The Mets obtained Francoeur from the Braves for Ryan Church on July 10. Before the deal, Francoeur had batted .250 with a .352 slugging percentage, 35 RBIs, five home runs, 12 doubles and two triples in 324 at-bats.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.