Francoeur finds time away inspiring

Francoeur finds time away inspiring

ATLANTA -- He paced back and forth in the dugout on Tuesday, spitting more sunflower seeds than he had in his life. Yeah, it had been a while since Jeff Francoeur sat out a Major League game.

And the way he hit Wednesday, it's going to be a while before he does again.

Francoeur launched his first home run since April 12 and wound up a double short of the cycle in the Braves' 11-4 win over the Mets on Wednesday night.

"Mentally I needed it more than anything, to get my mind back right, and hopefully I'll come back and start a hot streak and get going," Francoeur said before he went 3-for-4 with four RBIs. "This team, we need wins and me driving the ball a lot more than we need me playing every game."

Francoeur, whose average had dipped to .258, the lowest it had been since the second game of the season, sat out Tuesday's nightcap for the first time in 370 games, which had been the longest active consecutive games played streak in the Majors. In between the two games, Francoeur said he went into the Braves' indoor batting cage and hit about 100 to 150 balls, going home with a confidence he hasn't had in about a week.

"I feel like I had two or three hits last night, the way the session went with the confidence that I have," said Francoeur, who is batting .269 with four home runs and 30 RBIs this season.

During Tuesday night's 6-2 win over the Mets, Gregor Blanco filled in for Francoeur in right field. So with no game responsibilities, Francoeur resorted to something he has always enjoyed doing: bugging teammate Brian McCann.

"He's the most annoying bench player in the world," said McCann, who also had the night game off after catching the first game. "I don't ever want to have him on the bench again.

"He's just annoying," McCann added. "He talks the whole time, doesn't give you your space. Every time you turn around, he's there."

Luckily for McCann, Francoeur won't be spending much time in the dugout anytime soon. Francoeur said he feels energized after sitting out his first game since Oct. 1, 2005, and is ready to start contributing to a Braves lineup that needs another bat to produce.

"Last week, I definitely did not have fun," said Francoeur, who was 0-for-10 in the past three games before Wednesday.

Even McCann, who put up with Francoeur's antics all night, said it was good for his friend to take the night off.

"He needed a mental day off," McCann said. "I think sitting back watching the game, you get to regroup your thoughts and think about the game and about what you need to do to hit the ball on a consistent basis."

Ryan Lavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.