CINCINNATI -- Whenever Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton has reason to begin losing his patience with Jeff Francoeur, he settles himself down with the reminder that he was just as inconsistent at a similar point of his own playing career.
"Sometimes, I have to remind myself just how young some of these guys are," Pendleton said. "When I look back at that point of my career, I thought I was smart, but I wasn't."
Because he's in the middle of his fourth Major League season, it's easy to forget the fact that Francoeur is just 24 years old. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto, who is currently being praised for his impressive rookie season, is actually older than both Francoeur and Braves two-time All-Star catcher Brian McCann.
Still, with the experience he's gained since making his Major League debut midway through the 2005 season, Francoeur feels that he should be showing more consistency than he has shown during the early portion of the season.
And despite the fact that he'd hit .152 in his previous nine games entering Saturday, the Braves' right fielder believes he might be in the midst of turning a corner.
"Over the past week, I feel like I've been showing good patience and swinging at better pitches, but I'm just not getting any breaks," Francoeur said. "I just have to keep going."
When Francoeur ended his consecutive games played streak at 370 games on May 20, he returned the following day with a three-hit performance. But during the nine games that have followed, he's come to realize he needed more than just a few hours of stress relief to gain his desired consistency.
"It's going to take a couple of consecutive games or days of something positive," Pendleton said.
Entering Saturday afternoon's game against the Reds, Francoeur was hitting a season-low .251 with five homers and 32 RBIs. Through his first 54 games of last season, he was hitting .294 with seven homers and 41 RBIs.
When he ended last season with a .293 batting average, there was some thought that Francoeur could be a consistent offensive threat. But now the critics that were howling when he hit .260 in 2006 are wondering if his free-swinging ways will force him to encounter maddening inconsistencies throughout his career.
"I just have to remind myself that I'm not going to improve my batting average from .250 to .290 in a day," Francoeur said. "From at-bat to at-bat, I've just got to focus on getting my hits and letting everything else take care of itself."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.