Jeff Francoeur: minor league pitcher

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HBT favorite Jeff Francoeur was released by the Indians in spring training and was picked up on a minor league deal by the Padres. He’s been playing at El Paso all season and he’s hitting a Francoeurian .277 with a low OBP and some decent pop. It’s what he’s always done, really, and given that his parent club has a pretty lackluster offense, it wouldn’t be shocking if he was patrolling right field in San Diego sometime this season.

But for now, he’s making the most of it. And part of making the most of it is as El Paso’s mopup man. He’s pitched five and a third innings over six appearances, allowing four hits and three earned runs with three walks and four strikeouts. Not great, but not nothing. He is said to have a fastball in the low 90s and a serviceable slider.

That all comes in this excellent New York Times story by Tyler Kepner, who features both Francoeur and former major leaguer Jason Lane. Himself an outfielder at one time but now a full-time pitcher and frequent pinch hitter. The angle on the story is how Francoeur is pitching for fun and Lane is pitching for his career. Or at least to prolong it. There are some good observations in there too about how, in this day of 13-man pitching staffs and very thin major league benches, a swingman like Lane or possibly even Francoeur could become less of a novelty and might actually serve a useful purpose on a big league club.

Great story. Check it out.

Orioles designate Pedro Alvarez for assignment

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The Baltimore Orioles are terrible and going nowhere fast, so they decided to do some shuffling of the decks today.

One part of that was to called up catcher Caleb Joseph, which was the corresponding move to sending down Chance Sisco the other day. Joseph will now be big league teammates with brother Corban. Aww.

Another thing they did was to purchase the contract of Steve Wilkerson from Triple-A Norfolk. He’s a utility guy who has been swinging a hot bat after getting a late start to the season due to a 50-game drug suspension. Good for him, but that’s bad news for Pedro Alvarez, who was designated for assignment in the corresponding move.

Alvarez, 31, started the season well but has been atrocious for most of it. His line on the year is .180/.283/.414 with eight homers, but he’s been far worse than that for over a month. The 2013 NL home run champ will now go through waivers and, at the end of that process, likely have to choose between free agency or a trip to Norfolk. And, given that it’s the worst team in baseball sending him packing, there’s a good chance that it could be the end of the big league road for him.