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Francoeur, Melky thriving in Kansas City

Jeff Francoeur #21 of the Kansas City Royals

Jeff Francoeur #21 of the Kansas City Royals against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (May 10, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Jeff Francoeur loves coming to work. The former Met feels like a kid again, and maybe that's because most of his new teammates are just kids.

Though only 27, the former Mets outfielder is considered almost an elder statesman on the Kansas City Royals, the team he signed a one-year, $2.5-million contract this past offseason. Francoeur's signing was supposed to be just a stopgap for the Royals, whose organization is stocked with highly regarded homegrown talent. But the way he's been swinging the bat this season -- Francoeur is hitting .308 while leading the Royals in home runs (eight) and has 24 RBIs -- the Royals have got to be thinking about keeping him around longer term.

He's not the only "older" player whose career is being revived in Kansas City. Melky Cabrera, who turns 27 in August, was playing his first game against the Yankees since the team traded him to the Braves at the end of the 2009. He is hitting .283 as the everyday centerfielder for the Royals. In his second at-bat against his former team, he homered to centerfield for the Royals' only run of the game.

"I feel good hitting here, but I never think about hitting home runs,'' Cabrera said. "I just tried to make contact and it happened."

"Those two guys were both looking for bounce-back years," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Melky and Francoeur were both looking to get their game back to a level where it should be, and they were very dedicated getting themselves back into shape this winter."

Francoeur played for parts of two seasons with the Mets, coming to the team from the Braves in July 2009 and leaving at the end of last August when the team traded him to the Rangers for infielder Joaquin Arias. Though he enjoyed his time in New York, it wasn't always easy, especially last season when he was replaced by Angel Pagan in rightfield to make room for the return of Carlos Beltran.

Cabrera came up with the Yankees, and played with the club from 2006 through 2009. In his final season, he helped the Yankees win the World Series by batting .274 with 13 homers. Following the 2009 season, Cabrera was traded to Atlanta for Javier Vazquez. He was a flop with the Braves, bating .255 with four homers and 42 RBIs. Few teams showed interest in him in the offseason, but he ultimately signed a one-year, $1.25-million deal with Kansas City.

Francoeur is not bitter about his time with the Mets, and said he still follows them closely. Said Francoeur of their struggles: "It's hard to see what those guys are going through."

It's a lot easier to see now that he's somewhere else, hitting .308 on an up-and-coming team.


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