CLEARWATER, Fla. — Maikel Franco has reported to Phillies camp early. He weighed in at 225 pounds, down 10 from the end of last season, and he looks strong. He is sporting a new leg kick at the plate. He says it will help him maintain balance throughout his swing. It all looked pretty good Thursday as he lined balls over the left field wall during batting practice.
Franco, 26, looks like a man ready to compete for a job, and that’s good because he is in for a competition. On Wednesday, manager Gabe Kapler alluded to a best-man-wins duel between Franco and Scott Kingery for the third base job (see story). On Thursday, Kapler met with Franco for 10 minutes and told him that indeed is what will happen.
“He explained everything,” Franco said. “I understand the situation.
“Every year, I come in here and I try to forget I have a position and compete and that’s what is happening right now. I just compete and don’t think about it.”
Of course, this third base competition is contingent on the Phillies standing pat at third base. They could still sign Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas and that would eliminate the competition.
Franco admitted that last season was difficult for him. On two occasions, it appeared as if he was being phased out of the lineup. An injury to J.P. Crawford thrust Franco back into the lineup in late June and he went on a two-month tear and ended up leading the team in batting average (.270). He finished second on the team in OPS (.780) and third in homers (22).
That wasn’t enough to stop the front office from pursuing Machado as a free agent. The pursuit actually began last summer when the Phils unsuccessfully tried to trade for Machado.
At home in the Dominican Republic, Franco heard plenty of Manny talk this winter. He also heard his name in trade speculation.
Is he surprised to still be with the Phillies?
“Not really,” he said. “I know they talk about trading me and things like that but I’m happy to be here with my guys and that’s a good thing.
“I’m not even thinking about what might happen. I just think about what I have to do to improve, what I have to do to get better. I just try to stay away from it all and do my job.
“Last year was tough on me. But 2018 is in the past and I’m focused on 2019.”
Maybe that’s in Philadelphia. Maybe that’s somewhere else.
“I just have to be me and do my work and get ready and whatever happens happens,” Franco said.
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