Notes: Franco moved by ovation

Notes: Franco moved by ovation

ATLANTA -- Just a few hours before the Braves and Mets played at Turner Field on Saturday night, Julio Franco was sitting in the Atlanta dugout conversing with manager Bobby Cox and trading verbal jabs with Andruw Jones.

It was almost as if nothing had ever changed. Other than the fact that Franco was wearing Mets attire and is now drawing a paycheck from the team that seemingly has the best chance to end Atlanta's record run of 14 consecutive division titles, it really hasn't.

If the rousing standing ovation Franco received before coming to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Friday night's series opener gives any indication, Braves fans still view the 47-year-old wonder as one of their own. They certainly aren't spitefully looking at him as an enemy.

"It gave me chills," said Franco, who left Atlanta to sign with the Mets in December. "I was expecting the fans to be nice. But that was overwhelming. That shows the class that this town has."

Just last week, Franco became the oldest player in Major League history to hit a home run. Because that was something he was expecting, he doesn't view that as the greatest moment of his career. Instead, he actually holds the unexpected standing ovation in higher esteem.

"I don't think that will ever be topped," Franco said. "The only thing that could surpass that is winning the World Series."

When Franco came to the plate, the Mets had just a one-run lead and a runner on first with nobody out. But the Braves fans, including former President Jimmy Carter, still took time to display the appreciation for all that he provided while in Atlanta from 2001-05.

"We could have applauded him, too, if we were leading 10-1," Cox said.

As Franco strolled toward the plate, he momentarily looked into the Braves dugout. He then acknowledged the crowd with a smile and a tip of his batting helmet. All the while, Braves left-handed reliever Mike Remlinger waited patiently, understanding the significance of the moment.

"He deserves it," Remlinger said. "He's one of the quality guys. I don't think you'll find anybody who will tell you any differently."

So it really didn't bother him? "It's just another guy in the [batter's] box that people like more than you," Remlinger responded jokingly.

Foster progressing: Cox said the plan is for John Foster to begin a Minor League rehab assignment in the middle of May. But the left-handed reliever knows it will be the end of this week before he knows whether his left elbow is strong enough for him to pitch.

"Everything feels good," Foster said. "It's just a matter of if the elbow is going to let me do it."

Foster, who hasn't pitched since March 7, had a minor setback when his elbow responded unfavorably after throwing on flat ground from a distance of 90 feet on Friday. But he plans to continue throwing on flat ground with the hope of throwing off the mound at the end of this upcoming week.

"I'm ready to go," Foster said. "Mentally, I want it to be finished. But I'm prepared for the worst. It kills me to be in uniform and not be able to play."

No respect for LaRoche: Obviously, the group of Braves pitchers that chose to hire a professional to cut their hair in the clubhouse on Friday afternoon weren't too impressed with the work Adam LaRoche had done on Jeff Francoeur's head just four days earlier.

"If they got that kind of money to spend, there's nothing I can do about it," said LaRoche, who gave Francoeur a buzz cut after Monday's game.

LaRoche can take some credit for Francoeur's recent offensive improvement. Since getting the cut, the 22-year-old right fielder has hit safely in three straight games and raised his average from .184 to .193 entering Saturday's game.

"Baby steps," LaRoche said with a smile.

None of the Braves hurlers received a cut nearly as close as Francoeur's. But Oscar Villarreal lost a significant portion of his black hair. In fact, as he walked through the dugout on Friday, he jokingly introduced himself to Cox and pitching coach Roger McDowell.

Coming up: The Braves will conclude their three-game series against the Mets on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Davies (1-2, 4.56 ERA) will oppose Steve Trachsel (2-1, 3.13 ERA) in the finale.

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