Francisco likely to get plenty of at-bats

Francisco likely to get plenty of at-bats

Francisco likely to get plenty of at-bats
PHOENIX -- Third baseman Juan Francisco should see plenty of action this season and could get as many as 250 at-bats, given the Braves' desire to be careful with the surgically repaired left knee of regular third baseman Chipper Jones.

"Maybe 300 at-bats," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Jones, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in March, did not start in the series finale against the Mets on Wednesday and was held out of the starting lineup in the series opener against the D-backs on Thursday because of a buildup of fluid around the knee after the flight from Atlanta to Phoenix. Francisco went 4-for-10 with a home run, four RBIs and two runs scored starting in Jones' place in those two games.

Jones was back in the lineup on Friday and is expected to play Saturday. He is scheduled to take the day off Sunday and likely won't return to the lineup until the second game of the series against the Dodgers on Tuesday in Los Angeles, which is his 40th birthday. The Braves hope Jones can play in 100-120 games this season.

"I know this is a great opportunity for me and there is a door open for me to play," said Francisco, who is hitting .292 with two home runs and six RBIs this season. "I have to take advantage of what is given to me. I think if I keep doing the little things, it will turn out well. I just have to be ready mentally and physically for when the opportunity arrives."

Francisco, who was acquired from the Reds for Minor League pitcher J.J. Hoover earlier this month, opened the 2011 season with the Reds and spent most of the year at Triple-A Louisville, where he batted .307 with 23 doubles, 15 homers and 50 RBIs in 74 games.

The Reds were hoping Francisco could fill the club's need for a left-handed bat and backup third baseman in 2012, but he struggled during Spring Training in part because of a strained right calf that bothered him at the beginning of camp. Complicating matters for Cincinnati was the fact that Francisco was out of Minor League options and showed up to camp overweight.

"He likes to work. That's one thing I notice," Gonzalez said. "He's young and he's got some pop. Like I told him when we brought him in, 'We are going to give you an opportunity'."