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05/06/08 8:00 PM ET
Larger role greets Francisco
Without Michaels, Tribe callup ready for more time in outfield
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- A reporter from the Dominican Republic greeted Ben Francisco enthusiastically before Tuesday's Indians game at Yankee Stadium and mentioned Francisco's Dominican roots. The young outfielder -- born in California and not the least bit Latin -- wasn't rattled. "Since [Class] A ball, people have been making that mistake," Francisco later said with a smile. "When I tell them I'm not Latin, they get disappointed. They ask me, 'Then why is your name Francisco?'" This particular reporter could be forgiven for the mistake, because Francisco's Dominican-born teammates had given the poor guy some misinformation as a prank. By this point, Francisco is used to having misconstrued roots. And by this point, he's also used to the joy of being promoted to the big leagues -- an event that happened once again on Tuesday, as Francisco was called up from Triple-A Buffalo for the second time this season and the fourth time in two years. But this particular promotion had a new feeling to it, because it appears to be a more permanent move for Francisco. He was in the starting lineup on Tuesday night against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte and figures to get regular playing time in the Indians' corner-outfield spots. "I always come up ready to play, so nothing changes from that aspect," Francisco said. "But it's better than last time, when I was called up for three days. I'm looking forward to helping the team and doing my part." Manager Eric Wedge said that Francisco won't be an everyday player, but he won't be limited to starts solely against left-handed pitching, as Jason Michaels, the man Francisco replaced, had been. "We'll play him against right-handers, too, when we want to give [David] Dellucci or [Franklin Gutierrez] a day," Wedge said. "[Francisco is] versatile enough to play every outfield spot well. We'll see where it goes." Francisco's callup in April came when starter Jake Westbrook went on the disabled list and the Indians opted to have an extra position player for a few days before a starter was needed. He went 2-for-6 with one RBI. But Francisco really made an impression last season, when he made his big league debut and batted .274 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 25 games. He also had a stellar Spring Training, in which he hit .362 with three homers and nine RBIs. As the Indians have gotten off to a slow start at the plate, fans have been clamoring for Francisco's callup. But Francisco, who was batting just .228 with one homer and six RBIs in 19 games at Buffalo, knows he can't be a sole savior to the struggling ballclub. "I can't be thinking about that," Francisco said. "Baseball's such a team sport. I can only do my part and control what I can control."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.