Francoeur's arbitration date set for next week

Jeff Francoeur is already in Florida, getting a head start on what he hopes will be a bounce-back season with the Atlanta Braves.

But once all his teammates are at Disney's Wide World of Sports next week, the former Parkview standout will likely have to head off to Arizona for something that could test his confidence and his relationship with the team.

Francoeur's salary arbitration hearing is set for a week from today in Phoenix and it doesn't look like the sides will be able to strike a compromise before that. The outfielder requested a 2009 salary of $3.95 million. The Braves countered with $2.8 million.

Coming off the worst season of his career, Francoeur isn't dealing from as strong a position as he would have hoped and the hearing is likely to be unpleasant. He admitted as much recently.

"The last thing I want to do is sit in a courtroom, and have them rip me and me rip them," said Francoeur, who batted .239 and hit 11 homers last season.

But the parties are $1.15 million apart and neither side seems willing to split the difference at this point. Francoeur, who made $460,000 in 2008, is eligible for arbitration for the first time and wants to recoup after being renewed by the Braves the past two seasons.

The Braves have one other unsigned player eligible for arbitration - second baseman Kelly Johnson. He requested $3.3 million and the Braves offered $2.35 million. A compromise is believed to be more likely in his case, with that hearing set for Thursday.

Once a hearing is held for a player, the three arbitrators involved must pick one of the two figures. There can be no midpoint.