Reds considering Francisco in left field

Reds considering Francisco in left field

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Because of his inexperience, third base prospect Juan Francisco seemed to have a distant shot at the Reds' left-field vacancy.

Now, maybe it's not so distant, since Francisco's booming bat could force the issue. The 22-year-old has hit well during camp and will make his first start in left field on Tuesday when the Reds face the D-backs in Tucson. If he shows some level of skill, his chances to make the team could improve.

"I feel really comfortable with it," said Francisco -- with teammate Yonder Alonso translating in English -- about the upcoming start. "Thank God that in the Dominican, I was able to play it a lot. I'm excited to play over there."

Through seven spring games, the 22-year-old Francisco is batting .333 (5-for-15) with two home runs and three RBIs. He also had a two-run homer during a "B" game on Sunday that didn't count on the stat sheet.

As the designated hitter on Monday during a 13-5 Reds win over the A's, the left-handed hitting Francisco was 1-for-3 with a single and two strikeouts.

Jonny Gomes and Chris Dickerson have been viewed as the favorites for left field, but that scenario could be altered. Dickerson, who was 4-for-4 on Monday, has had a much stronger camp to this point than expected center fielder Drew Stubbs and could easily shift over if Stubbs doesn't make the team. Then the righty-hitting Gomes and Francisco could form a power-hitting platoon in left field.

With veteran Scott Rolen at third base and signed through 2012, a change of position is the only express path to Cincinnati for Francisco.

In 397 Minor League games, Francisco has logged five of them in left field. In winter ball with the Cibao Gigantes, Francisco played 36 games at third base and 18 in left field.

"I don't care. I know I can play both positions -- left field or third base," Francisco said. "It's not a problem as long as I can play and contribute every day."

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In 131 games combined at Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville in 2009, Francisco batted .295 with 27 homers and 93 RBIs. During his September callup to the Majors, he batted .429 (9-for-21) with one homer and seven RBIs in 14 games. With 25 homers in low Class A in 2007 and 23 homers at high Class A ball in '08, power has always been part of his game.

The negative aspect of Francisco's game has always been an alarming strikeout rate. He walked just 24 times in the Minors last season compared to 115 strikeouts. Since beginning in the organization in 2005, he's walked 86 times, with 468 strikeouts.

"We still have to work on him a little bit because he's extremely aggressive," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We have to work on him as far as pitch selection. [Opposing pitchers] are starting to go out of the [strike] zone on him. You get a reputation and that's what they're going to do. I'm very confident he'll make the adjustment."

"I am working on all aspects of the game and, of course, that's one of my main goals," Francisco said of reducing strikeouts. "Hopefully I can cut down on that as well."

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