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Article:The Tomahawk Times - Braves send struggling Francoeur to minors

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ATLANTA -- Stuck in the biggest slump of his young career, Atlanta Braves' outfielder Jeff Francoeur has been optioned to Double-A Mississippi to try and find some answers to his offensive struggles.

Team officials confirmed on Friday that the move had been made. Francoeur, 24, was told of the decision in a meeting with Braves general manager Frank Wren and manager Bobby Cox after Thursday's loss to the Philadelphia Phillies. 

The slump had become more pronounced since June 17. Since that time, Francoeur has gone just 6-for-52 for a .115 average with no extra-base hits and just one RBI in 15 games.

Atlanta gave Francoeur a choice of whether to report to Mississippi or Triple-A Richmond, but the outfielder opted to go with Double-A because of his relationship with manager Phil Wellman, who served as his hitting coach during his minor league days. The Braves hope that his at-bats there will allow him to make the necessary adjustments in a less pressure-filled environment.

After exploding onto the scene in 2005 with a homer in his first game for Atlanta, the local product had been a staple in the middle of the Braves line-up. Boo birds began to be heard in recent days, as the offensive woes had already forced Cox to drop Francoeur to the seventh spot in the batting order nearly two weeks ago.

Despite an altered stance that he debuted in Sunday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the results remained the same. Francoeur went 0-for-4 and made the final out in a 4-1 loss to the Phillies on Thursday, dropping his average to just .234 on the season.

After hitting .273 through the end of April, Francoeur hit .236 in May and dipped to .206 for the month of June. Francoeur had just one hit in 12 at-bats during the recently completed series against Philadelphia this month.

"It's really a tough time for him," said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones after Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia. "He's never struggled, up until this point, ever."

In recent days, Francoeur had taken to both early batting practice and working in the cage following the game in an attempt to find the swing that allowed him to hit .293 with 19 homers and 105 RBI's a year ago.

The pressure to perform appeared to be taking a mental toll on the young outfielder, something that was not lost on his veteran teammate.

"I'd like to see a little more of the enthusiasm that he showed early on in his career," added Jones. "He's really down on himself right now, and I think it would help him come out of it a little faster if he doesn't take the game as seriously as he is [right now]. I think it could do him some good."

With Gregor Blanco hitting well, the recent return of regular center fielder Mark Kotsay and the impending return of Matt Diaz had the Braves on track to have their outfield at full strength for the first time since the end of May. Diaz will join Francoeur in Mississippi on Friday to begin a rehab assignment.

Atlanta recalled 27-year old outfielder Jason Perry from Triple-A Richmond to replace Francoeur on the active roster. Perry was hitting .302 with five homers and 14 RBI at Richmond, after beginning the season in Mississippi and hitting .314 with 13 homers and 41 RBI in 38 games.

Perry was a college teammate of Mark Teixeira at Georgia Tech before being drafted in the sixth round of the 2002 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He will be in uniform for Friday's contest against the Houston Astros.  

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