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Francoeur, McCann shape up for coming season

ATLANTA - Spring training is still a couple of weeks away, but the Atlanta Braves' Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann are already fit and ready to go.

Being fit just means two different things now to the longtime Gwinnett County buddies.

Francoeur has bulked up. McCann has slimmed down.

In both cases, the change is obvious and wanted.

"I've gained about 15 or 20 pounds and only about 10 of it was from my honeymoon," said Francoeur, breaking into a laugh.

The offseason was a serious time for Francoeur and McCann, however. Both got married and refocused their winter baseball routines.

Francoeur was determined to bulk up so he could better survive the rigors of playing a long season and never missing a game. McCann was determined to trim a little fat and firm up.

For McCann, that meant less fast food and more time at the gym.

"I feel great," McCann said. "I think working out more this winter is really going to pay off."

In addition to going to the gym four times a week, McCann began yoga at the urging of former teammate Mark DeRosa.

"We were doing it twice a week, but we cut back to one," McCann said. "It's different, that's for sure. But I think it's good."

Francoeur may laugh at McCann about the yoga, but he too became a workout freak this winter.

"I've never lifted weights so much," Francoeur said. "I definitely wanted to be stronger this season."

The right fielder won his first Gold Glove last season and hit .293 with 103 RBIs. But his home-run production slipped to 19.

"He's just trying to bulk up so he can get back to 20 homers," joked catching prospect Clint Sammons, Francoeur's football and baseball teammate at Parkview.

"I'm trying to work my way into the Mitchell Report," Francoeur quipped.

Not really, of course.

But Francoeur's extra muscle was as easy to spot as McCann's trimmer waist line as they hit with a few other players Wednesday at Turner Field.

McCann not only looks better, he can also see better. Much better.

The catcher didn't have the ankle that bothered him last season operated on, but he did have Lasik surgery on his eyes.

"I've always had bad eyes and I had trouble with my contacts," McCann said. "I didn't realize it, but people mentioned how I squinted. Hopefully, I won't do that now. I can see a lot better. It's a big difference."

McCann made the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season, but his average dropped from .333 to .270.

"I won't use my ankle as an excuse," McCann said.

"I just didn't get in a groove at the plate all season. I definitely wasn't happy with my production."

The Braves are counting on banner seasons in 2008 from McCann and Francoeur, who were once a big part of the Baby Braves. Francoeur turned 24 on Jan. 8 and McCann reaches the same age on Feb. 20.

The Braves will be in Florida by then, but players have already got their game faces on. The team begins its annual pitching camp at Turner Field on Friday and many players have already been hitting or throwing in the indoor batting cages.

Atlanta has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years and it again looks like a three-team battle in the National League East.

If anyone was counting the New York Mets out, that certainly isn't the case after the pending trade for former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.

"I always thought the Mets would be right in there, even before the Santana deal," McCann said.

"Santana is tough and he definitely makes the Mets better," Francoeur said. "But we made some good moves, too. This is a big season for us and I like our chances."

At least the Braves are determined to get a head start.

SideBar: BRAVES SPRING TRAINING

Where: Disney's Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Fla.

Reporting date: Feb. 13

First workout: Feb. 14

Full squad: Feb. 20

First game: Feb. 27 vs. Georgia Bulldogs, 1:05 p.m.

Grapefruit League opener: Feb. 28 vs. Dodgers at Vero Beach, 1:05 p.m.

First home game: Feb. 29 vs. Dodgers at Champion Stadium, 1:05 p.m.

More information: AtlantaBraves.com