Commentary

Francoeur gets his chance with Rangers

After being traded by the Mets in August, veteran outfielder back on New York stage

Updated: October 15, 2010, 10:38 AM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Jeff Francoeur hoped to experience postseason baseball in New York. Of course, the original plan called for that to be with the New York Mets.

Instead, after an Aug. 31 trade to the Texas Rangers, Francoeur is now in the American League Championship Series, which opens Friday in Arlington, Texas, and shifts to the Bronx on Monday. He is expected to start against left-handed pitching, which means in the opener against CC Sabathia as well as when Andy Pettitte pitches for the Yankees in Game 3.

"I'll tell you this: Before the year started, I was hoping to play playoff baseball in New York in October, but I didn't think it would be in the ALCS," Francoeur said by telephone with a laugh. "Obviously, it's going to be a blast. Playing in New York in October is special. And, for me, it's nice that I faced CC a couple of times this year and last year [in interleague play], so I'll be ready for him. And, of course, I've faced Pettitte throughout my career with [Atlanta versus] Houston, and a couple of times in interleague."

[+] EnlargeJeff Francoeur
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireRangers outfielder Jeff Francoeur will likely see action against the Yankees' left-handed pitchers in the ALCS.
Francoeur's lease for his apartment in midtown Manhattan actually doesn't run out until the end of the month, although he's undecided whether he'll stay there during the ALCS. Mets rookie catcher Josh Thole used the apartment during the regular season's final month, after Francoeur was traded to the Rangers for infielder Joaquin Arias. The Mets did not get any salary relief in the deal.

Francoeur said he remains in touch with his former teammates, primarily through fantasy football. The Mets drafted teams in Chicago days after Francoeur was traded to Texas. So Francoeur sent one of his best friends, Todd Stewart, an Atlanta high school assistant football coach, who played with Francoeur at Parkview High School, to draft for him.

"I flew him up and told him he could go to the game at Wrigley Field, and then he picked my team," Francoeur said. "He did a good job. My guys haven't done it yet. It's still early. Tom Brady hasn't had the [customary] type of year, so I'm sitting at freakin' 1-4."

With the New England Patriots off this past week and Francoeur's backup quarterback, Jay Cutler, injured with a concussion suffered during a sack barrage by the Giants, Francoeur actually had to engineer a trade during the ALDS for a quarterback. He sent Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte to Mets third baseman David Wright's team for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

"Of course, he ended up rushing 166 yards this week and two touchdowns," Francoeur said about Forte. "Oh, well." Francoeur hit only .237 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs in 401 at-bats with the Mets this season, and expressed gratitude to former GM Omar Minaya for trading him. Upon joining the Rangers, Francoeur hit .340 with two homers and 11 RBIs in the regular season while being used against southpaws. He was 1-for-8 in the ALDS against Tampa Bay, doubling and scoring in Game 1 against David Price.

"It was awesome. We got off to a great start this year. The first half was great," Francoeur reflected about his 2010 experience with the Mets. "Then to struggle like we did for those two months was tough. Even when I was over here [with Texas], keeping up with the guys, I know it was tough to finish the season knowing everything was going to happen and the way things went.

"But for me to be able to be a part of something here, and to be able to contribute and play well, it really made me feel like part of the team. And guys here were awesome, really making me feel like part of the team."

Francoeur made $5 million this season, which means he likely will be nontendered by the Rangers and become a free agent this offseason.

He is tuning those thoughts out for now.

"For so many years I thought about where I was going to be or what was going to happen the next year," Francoeur said. "I know I did a lot before this year in New York. I think in this game I've learned anything can happen at any time. I'd be doing myself a disservice if I started thinking about next year, especially with what we're going through now and having so much fun."

Adam Rubin covers MLB for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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