Francisco looking for edge against breaking balls

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Juan Francisco has gained some positive results, as he has spent the first two weeks of the exhibition season feasting on fastballs and showing his tremendous power potential. But his desire to earn an everyday role with the Braves will be influenced by his willingness to make himself less susceptible to breaking balls and offspeed pitches.

"We're trying to make his swing more efficient where he can actually be more accurate and become less timing-based where you have to time up everything perfectly," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said. "He's gotten better at it. But he needs to keep fighting to become more efficient and not allow his body and all of his movements take away from his talents."

Francisco has hit .333 (10-for-30) with two home runs, two doubles and seven strikeouts through his first 11 games of the exhibition season. In the process, the pull-happy third baseman has shown more of a willingness to use the whole field by hitting the ball the opposite way.

Still, as the next couple of weeks unfold, the Braves would like Francisco to concentrate on quieting the motion of his swing. Over the past few years, he has developed a habit of shifting his body inward as he is loading to swing and then opening his front side too far during his follow through.

"We're trying to get him to where he can operate and be more efficient when guys start changing speeds or pitching out of the zone to him," Walker said. "A lot of that inefficiency of his body leads to that. He doesn't need it. He doesn't gain any more power. He doesn't need any more power. If he touches it, it's going a long way. We just need him to become more accurate and efficient."

Francisco, who hit nine home runs in 192 at-bats with the Braves last year, is battling with Chris Johnson to begin the season as the starting third baseman. If neither wins the job, manager Fredi Gonzalez might utilize a platoon.

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