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Royals’ Francouer insists his swing is coming around

  • Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, March 20, 2013, at 8:52 p.m.

— Whatever the numbers say, or even merely suggest, is irrelevant to Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur as this extended spring training crawls toward its conclusion.

It’s not that they lie; he contends that they are simply unimportant.

“I hit several balls hard the last three games,” Francoeur said. “That’s all I care about. I don’t care about spring training (numbers). The last two or three days, I really started to feel good. I squared up some balls.

“I’m not reaching right now. You know what? Last week, yeah. I was still feeling it out. But the last three games, I feel really, really good.

“I’ve told you, I need 60 or 70 at-bats every year. It’s the truth. I said that after I got four hits in my first six (at-bats). I still said I’m going to need 60 or so. Trust me.”

Francoeur stands at a club-leading 56 at-bats after Wednesday’s 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Surprise Stadium. He has played in 23 of 25 games, also tops on the club.

And he is batting .232 with a .271 on-base percentage.

“It’s coming,” insisted Francoeur, who went two for three against the Dodgers. “Now, last week? No. I was very disappointed. But that’s why I asked Ned (Yost) to keep playing me. I need to keep getting my at-bats.

“Now, I’m getting there, and I’m kind of excited. I’m seeing 94 and 95 (mph) now and feeling comfortable with how I’m swinging and taking pitches. For me, that’s a big deal.”

Get him his necessary at-bats, Francoeur said, and he’ll be ready.

“Some guys can be ready with 35 or 40 at-bats,” he said. “Billy (Butler) is one of those guys. But I can’t. I need to see pitches — and more late in camp. Then you face people that you know. That’s key.

“Late in camp, you’re facing guys you’re going to face in the regular season. You start to see a starter twice. It takes three weeks into spring before that happens.

“I told (the Royals) I’d be ready for the start of the season, and I know what I’ve got to do.”

Francoeur, at 29, also knows he occupies the spotlight after an immensely disappointing 2012 season. That glare is hotter still because the Royals have no clear alternative in right field after trading mega-prospect Wil Myers.

“It doesn’t scare me at all,” Francoeur said. “I love it. This is my opportunity to come out there and put up numbers. I’m 100 percent confident that I’m going to do it. I haven’t wavered in that at all this spring.

“I know what some fans are saying, but I don’t give a (darn) about my spring-training stats.”

It isn’t just the fans, though.

The Royals continue to sift through the possibilities of acquiring a veteran left-handed hitter who might spell Francoeur against some tougher right-handed pitchers.

Those chances appear slim, so club officials are also taking a hard look at David Lough, a left-handed hitter who is batting .500 this spring, to see whether he fits within their projected roster.

Yost recently dropped Francoeur to eighth in the lineup. So there is concern from within the organization, too.

“Yes, he is struggling,” Yost conceded. “But the last two days, his at-bats have been much better. There’s no doubt. Much better. He’s had more at-bats than anybody in camp, and he needs more at-bats.

“His last six or seven at-bats, he’s hit the ball right on the nose four or five times. But just right at people. The idea is to be ready by Opening Day.”

And that, Francoeur insisted, is exactly the point — the only point.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” he said, “and that’s great for me. Whether I hit .200 in spring training or .260 or whatever. All that matters is 3 o’clock on April 1. And I’ve said that since the end of the season last year.

“I’ve got no doubts this year. Last year, I did. One thing I can tell you: Last year, my BP (batting practice) sucked. I mean it really did throughout the year. But out here, I’m getting the swings that I need.

“I’m in the cage hitting off the curveball machine every day. It’s all to get ready for April 1. I know that in two months, if I’m sitting there at .220, then I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. But I feel I’ll be at a good spot.”

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