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.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.