Beltran's advice pays off for Francoeur
Mets star suggests adjustment, which leads to walk-off shot
ATLANTA -- For Jeff Francoeur, something simple led to something significant.
On the advice of Carlos Beltran, Francoeur and hitting coach Howard Johnson spent the pregame hours Tuesday working on introducing a waggle into Francoeur's routine, just before he lifts his bat above his shoulder.
The aim was to limit the time that Francoeur stood stock still in the batter's box, thus keeping tension from creeping into his hands.
The immediate result was a game-winning homer.
"Different guys have to do different things to relax in the box," Johnson said. "You're talking about Major League hitters. The game for them is a pressure game, and the more you can try to help them alleviate that during the at-bat, the better they're going to be because they've got ability. They're big league hitters."
Making adjustments in his sixth big league season has perhaps been more difficult for Francoeur than for others, simply because he enjoyed so much success early in his career. During his first few seasons in Atlanta, Francoeur had little need to tinker with his swing. He was thriving.
Now, though, Francoeur has endured a frustrating season, prompting Johnson, Beltran and countless others to offer their advice.
Such a simple fix may not permanently cure Francoeur of his woes -- but it certainly can help.
"He tries so hard to get things done that he ends up getting himself out a lot, over-swinging or trying to overdo it," Johnson said. "Whenever you get a guy relaxing in the box, I don't care who you are. It's always good."
Bay not yet close to returning from DL
ATLANTA -- Outfielder Jason Bay is "not close" to returning from the disabled list, according to a team official, and is unlikely to come off the DL when he is eligible next Tuesday.
Bay, who suffered a concussion after crashing into the left-field wall at Dodger Stadium on July 23, told trainer Ray Ramirez on Tuesday that he was feeling "a little better," according to a team spokesman, after visiting with a team physician earlier in the week.
But Bay has not begun participating in baseball activities, and the Mets have no indication of when he might attempt to do so. He must remain symptom-free for a period of time before the team medical staff will clear him for activity.
Beltran to remain in center for rest of '10
ATLANTA -- Torii Hunter, one of the most celebrated center fielders of his generation, announced Wednesday that he is moving to right field for good.
The Mets had no such proclamations regarding Carlos Beltran, reiterating Wednesday that Beltran will remain in center field at least through the end of the season.
"There will be a time in his career where that might be an issue," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "Do I think that time is now? No, I don't think it's now, because we're in August of a year. Will we look at this and say where are we better going into Spring Training? Possibly. We'll look at what fits best for us."
Though Beltran has clearly struggled defensively -- particularly with his range -- since returning from the disabled list last month, it is difficult to say how much of that is due to his recovery from offseason knee surgery and how much is due to a natural regression at the age of 33. It is likewise impossible to compare his situation to that of the 35-year-old Hunter, simply because the two have always been distinctly different players.
The fact that Angel Pagan may now be a superior defensive center fielder is irrelevant. The Mets simply cannot afford to endure the prolonged adjustment period it would take for Beltran to learn another position.
Thole spells Blanco with Pelfrey pitching
ATLANTA -- The Henry Blanco experiment lasted all of one turn through the rotation.
Reneging on his commitment to keep Blanco paired with Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey while starting catcher Rod Barajas heals from a strained left oblique, Mets manager Jerry Manuel paired Pelfrey with Josh Thole on Wednesday instead.
His reasoning was two-fold: Manuel came away less than impressed with Pelfrey last week, when the right-hander allowed five runs to the D-backs in 5 2/3 innings with Blanco behind the plate. And Manuel wants to keep Thole's superior bat in the lineup for as long as the bottom of his lineup continues to struggle.
"I thought Josh did a decent job with him the last time Josh caught him," Manuel said of the pairing with Pelfrey. "And we need offense, as well."
Acosta could see late-inning action
ATLANTA -- All season long, Mets manager Jerry Manuel has leaned on a rotating carousel of right-handed relievers in end-game situations. First, it was Ryota Igarashi, followed by Fernando Nieve, Elmer Dessens and Bobby Parnell.
Manny Acosta may be next.
Fanning Rick Ankiel on a 97-mph fastball in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game, Acosta submitted his fourth consecutive scoreless outing, and his sixth in seven tries since returning from Triple-A Buffalo late last month.
At least temporarily, Acosta could play a critical role in the Mets' bullpen.
"He's really pitched well," Manuel said. "He hasn't just used one pitch. He's gotten behind in the count and thrown good breaking pitches, good changeups. He's pitched. He's done a good job for us since he's been here."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.