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Francoeur hit in face by pitch

Francoeur hit in face by pitch

JUPITER, Fla. -- Atlanta Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur was hit in the face by a pitch from St. Louis right-handed starting pitcher Todd Wellemeyer in the second inning of Sunday's 3-2 Braves win.

Francoeur was slow to get up, and appeared a little dazed. He spit up some blood, but said that when he saw that there were no teeth on the ground, he felt that he was OK. He was escorted off the field by Braves trainer Jeff Porter, who took Francoeur to the locker room.

A changeup hit the right-handed hitter on his lower left cheek. A preliminary examination found lacerations lining the inside of his lower left lip and a small amount of blood by his mouth. No teeth were damaged and his jaw was able to move normally. Francoeur was taken to the hospital for X-rays as a precautionary measure, just to make sure there was no hairline fracture. Everything was negative, and Francoeur returned to Roger Dean Stadium shortly after the game was completed.

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"There's no doubt I'm feeling some pain," said Francoeur, folding down his lip to reveal swelling and bruising. "Luckily, it didn't mess up my jaw."

Francoeur planned to head back to Orlando on Sunday to rest. He said that he could be back in a game on Wednesday or Thursday after the swelling goes down.

"It scared the heck out of me," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "I thought something had to break. Thankfully, he'll be all right."

His teammates were equally as frightened.

"You hate to see that, especially this close to the end of Spring Training," said Tom Glavine, Sunday's starting pitcher, who saw the blood trickling down Francoeur's face as he walked back to the dugout. "All indications are that he's OK and nothing seems to be broken. So he certainly dodged a bullet."

Gregor Blanco pinch-ran for Francoeur and went to right field in the bottom of the second inning. Francoeur was batting .314 with a homer and eight RBIs this spring.

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"He's right at the top of the list, as far as guys you just don't think you can afford to have out at any point in time," Glavine said.

Francoeur is no stranger to taking high-velocity balls to the face. In 2004, when Baseball America named him the Braves' top prospect, he was hit in the face when squaring around to bunt on July 7. The ball deflected off his bat and into his right eye socket, sending him to the disabled list until Aug. 14.

After the injury, a metal plate was placed underneath his right cheek bone (Francoeur said that the plate threw the doctor for a loop during Sunday's X-ray, when it picked up the plate). On Aug. 19 2004, five days after coming off the DL, he was promoted to Double-A Greenville. He finished the season a combined .276 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI for Class A Myrtle Beach and Greenville.

Francoeur said he knew that Sunday's plunking was not as severe as the one from four years ago.

"I knew right away it didn't do what it did [in 2004]," he said. "Luckily, it hit me lower."

Faran Fagen is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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