Frenchy faces uphill battle for roster spot

Veteran happy to be back with team that drafted him

Frenchy faces uphill battle for roster spot

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jeff Francoeur had a bounce-back season in 2015. After spending most of the previous year in the Minors, he signed with the Phillies. He batted .367 as a pinch-hitter with a .922 OPS. Overall he hit 13 homers and drove in 45 runs in just 326 at bats.

With the Phillies rebuilding, Francoeur found himself looking for a job again during the offseason. Now he's starting over with the Braves, the team it all started with.

"It was absolutely a tough winter," Francoeur said before starting in right field in Tuesday's 10-6 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium. "I figured eventually something good would work out. Something would happen. At the same time, I obviously think I'm here for a reason -- for a chance with these guys. So I'm excited about that.

"To be back home and have a chance to play with [coach Terry Pendleton] and [manager Fredi Gonzalez] and the guys I've known for a long time, that's the exciting part. It's tough, but it's exciting."

Francoeur, one of the game's most upbeat players, faces an uphill battle. There are seven outfielders left in Braves camp, and he's the only one who's a non-roster player. He's batting .308 with an .819 OPS, and the Braves, the team that first drafted and signed him, know what a positive clubhouse influence he is.

"He's competing for a job," Gonzalez said. "We brought him in. He was open and we're giving him an opportunity to win a job off the bench. He can play all three positions in the outfield. He's a great character guy. He had a good solid year last year. He was a dangerous hitter, and he had really good pinch-hit numbers. So why not?"

If nothing else, last season helped Francoeur prove to the rest of baseball that he could still hit and has a potent outfield arm.

"I think I got back the confidence to know what I can do," said Francoeur. "I think that's the big difference. Last year, I kind of questioned myself a little, what was going to happen. But this year, I think knowing what I can do and the things I can do will help out."

And even though the numbers game doesn't appear to work in his favor, he remains optimistic that it will work out in the end.

"If I didn't think I had a chance, I wouldn't be here. And I'm looking forward to the opportunity," Francoeur said with a grin.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.