ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers face some tough decisions in regards to the bench of their 25-man postseason roster.
They don't want to go into the playoffs without having every position covered, including first base. The bench will likely include a backup catcher, Andres Blanco, a fourth outfielder and probably a pinch runner in Esteban German. But that fifth spot (assuming the club goes with a five-man bench) would need to include someone who can play first base. Texas likes Francoeur's right-handed bat against tough lefties, not to mention that he has some postseason experience.
So Francoeur was standing at first base during part of batting practice on Wednesday, asking some questions about the position from infield coach Dave Anderson. Francoeur said he's been told that he'll start working out at the position in earnest while the club is in Seattle. The Rangers want to see what he can do over there.
He said he played some first base in high school, but not in the pros. And he added that he was looking forward to giving it a try.
If the athletic Francoeur can catch on fast, it would allow the Rangers to consider adding him to the bench in place of Jorge Cantu or Chris Davis. The Rangers don't want to risk not having someone to back up Mitch Moreland and if they play the Yankees, they'll likely see two left-handed starters in CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte in Games 1 and 2 in New York. If they play the Rays, they'll see lefty David Price, of course.
Since arriving in Texas, Cantu, a right-handed hitter that can play first, is batting .203 overall with no RBI in 64 overall at-bats. For the season, he's hitting just .232 against lefties. Francoeur has just 13 at-bats since coming over to Texas in an Aug. 31 trade, but he has five hits (.385) with three RBI and he has a .292 average against lefties this season. He's likely to get more at-bats as the season winds down so that the Rangers can try to make a decision.
I like the idea of trying Franceour at first. You can't risk not having someone on the bench that isn't serviceable at first (German played two innings at first in 2009 for the Rangers and started a game for the Royals in 2006, but he's not a regular first baseman). But they'd also like to have the strongest right-handed bat that they can as well. This gives them a chance to do that.
One intangible to consider on Francoeur as well: He's got a great attitude and that's someone you want on that roster. In just a few weeks, he's blended in to the clubhouse culture and has shown he'll do what it takes to win games (even get hit in the arm by Mariano Rivera).