Francoeur's role to expand; Cain gives Bochy peace of mind

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Francoeur's role to expand; Cain gives Bochy peace of mind
July 13, 2013, 6:15 pm
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Jeff Francoeur was released by the Royals after hitting .208/.249/.322 with three home runs in 193 plate appearances this season. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN DIEGO – Jeff Francoeur stepped into the Giants clubhouse with a gigantic grin and a limited role. He’s a platoon left fielder who will start against left-handers.

But his role could grow, and in more ways than one.

Francoeur is about to add “daddy” to his list of positions. He’ll make his first start as a Giant on Sunday against Padres left-hander Eric Stults, then catch a red eye back to Atlanta. His wife, Catie, is expecting the couple’s first child, and doctors will induce labor on Monday.

“A little girl,” Francoeur said. “This is a good time in my life.”

As for his baseball role, that has the potential to expand as well. The veteran outfielder, who was released by the Kansas City Royals on July 5, signed with the Giants even though he’s currently scheduled to get the short end of a platoon with Kensuke Tanaka.

[RELATED: Giants looking for lightning from Francoeur and Tanaka]

He’s been around long enough to understand how a manager thinks, though.

“I’m just glad to be here and if I hit, I’ll play against some right-handers, too,” Francoeur said. “That’s up to me, and something I’ve got to take care of.”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Francoeur wasn’t wrong.

“Sure, that’s the way it should be,” Bochy said. “Guys who are swinging the bat well, whether it’s against left-handers or right-handers, you find a way to put them in the lineup. Especially in the situation we’ve been in, we’ll go with the hot bats.”

It’s been awhile since Francoeur was hot at the plate. He was released after hitting .208/.249/.322 with three home runs in 193 plate appearances. But he has a history of getting a bounce when he goes to a new club. He hit .340 in 56 games for the Texas Rangers in 2010, after they acquired him from the Mets for the stretch drive. He was hitless with a walk in six at-bats against the Giants in the World Series that year.

“I know what type of guys they have here,” said Francoeur, who turned down other offers, including one from the Reds. “Just look what they’ve done. I wanted to be a part of it, man.”

Francoeur also got glowing recommendations from former Giant Mark DeRosa, one of his best friends in the game. He spoke to Cody Ross, too. The chance to spark the team as Ross and Pat Burrell did in 2010 definitely was on his mind.

“And everything I heard about Bochy, he’s like Bobby Cox,” Francoeur said, referring to his old manager in Atlanta. “It’s comfortable feeling to play for a manager who’s got your back.”

Francoeur said he didn’t anticipate adjusting to left field would be much of a problem; Bochy confirmed he would start there on Sunday, with Andres Torres – now part of a center field platoon with Gregor Blanco – starting alongside him.

He said he hit the skids in Kansas City when he started overthinking at the plate and started to look offspeed, which left him not always ready to hit the fastball. The numbers would indicate that Francoeur hasn’t been an impact hitter since he was a 23-year-old in 2007 with the Braves, but he believes he can contribute.

“He’s healthy, ready to go and we’re excited to have him,” Bochy said.

The Giants might have had Francoeur many years earlier. He was the Braves’ top pick in 2002, with the 23rd overall selection. The Giants had scouted him heavily. But when he went off the board, they took Matt Cain two picks later.

“Yeah, I think Matt’s done OK,” Francoeur said. “But I’m better than him at golf, and that’s all that matters.”

Told of those comments, Cain scoffed within earshot of his new teammate.

“Oh yeah?” Cain said. “See how he likes getting outdriven by a pitcher.”

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Cain wasn’t thinking about his golf bag or the All-Star break Saturday afternoon. Even though Bochy was concerned enough to pull his ace in the first inning Wednesday against the Mets, Cain threw off a bullpen mound and was in a giddy mood afterward.

Bochy said Cain would start either the first or second game out of the break. The rotation probably won’t be settled until Bochy flies back from the All-Star Game in New York on Wednesday, though. That’s partially because the club will play a doubleheader on July 23 and thus will need six starting pitchers in five days.

The fact that Cain picked up a baseball, though, and would slot early in the second-half rotation, are all good signs that he isn’t dealing with a significant injury, which is what both he and Bochy have maintained.

“I felt (assured) but I didn’t want it to be a concern,” Bochy said. “Coming off the one start, he was disappointed. But it does give you a sense of comfort that he felt really good after his ‘pen.”

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Santiago Casilla is back for the first time since late May, but he won’t be slotted back into his setup role right away. Sandy Rosario would remain the top right-handed setup choice for now until Casilla can find his bearings, Bochy said.

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