The Associated Press . New York Mets' right fielder Jeff Francoeur, a Parkview grad, sits in the dugout Saturday in Miami. Francoeur, once dubbed "The Natural" by Sports Illustrated, is in his the worst slump of his career.
ATLANTA -- When Jeff Francoeur hit .301 after being traded by the Braves to the New York Mets last season and then got off to a good start this year, it looked like the former Parkview sensation was back on track.
Whether it was the break from trying to be the hometown hero, a new approach at the plate or just taking advantage of a chance to start over, something appeared to have clicked.
Unfortunately, it hadn't. At least, not permanently.
Francoeur is in the worst slump of his career and that is saying something. He certainly went through some bad ones with the Braves, including a 2008 swoon that led to his being sent to the minors briefly.
How bad are things going for Francoeur, labeled "The Natural" by Sports Illustrated as a rookie in 2005 after he got off to a blazing start with the Braves?
Since batting .457 in the Mets' first 10 games, the right fielder's average is .123. He is 5-for-51 in May without an extra-base hit and is hitless in his past 19 at-bats.
Francoeur was benched in Florida on Sunday, getting what was termed a "mental health day."
But Francoeur, hitting .212 with four homers and 19 RBIs, was out of the lineup again Monday night as the Mets -- also slumping -- began a two-game series with the Braves at Turner Field.
With questions swirling about the status of manager Jerry Manuel, the Mets again turned to rookie Chris Carter in right field as they tried to break a five-game losing streak.
The Mets beat the Braves 3-2, but Francoeur was hitless in his only at-bat after entering the game as a defensive replacement for Carter.
The slump certainly didn't make for the kind of homecoming Francoeur would have liked.
If only the first trip back to Atlanta this season had come a month ago.
Francoeur had 16 hits in his first 35 at-bats, with three homers and nine RBIs in the 10 games. But he was 0-for-7 in New York's 20-inning marathon game at St. Louis on April 17 and has been in a batting funk every since.
The free swinger actually still had nearly as many walks (nine) as strikeouts (10) at the end of April, but his plate discipline is shot now. He has struck out 16 times in May and walked once.
Like when he would go into slumps with the Braves, Francoeur seems to be trying to do anything and everything to get going again.
"These past few days I have tried too many different things," Francoeur said. "I've had five different people telling me want I need to do. Sometimes the more you try things, the worse it gets."
The right-handed hitters' front shoulder is flying open, leaving his swing long and slow. That hasn't allowed him to catch up with fastballs and has made breaking balls away hard to reach.
"I know my swing better than anybody," said Francoeur, who twice drove in 100 runs with the Braves. "When I stand tall, use my leverage and attack the ball, I'm at my best."
Right now, though, the 26-year-old is pressing and his confidence is starting to wane. That is why Manuel decided to give him time off.
"I think it will do him a lot of good," the Mets manager said. "As hard as he works, as much as he wants to win, I think for him to take a break will be a big, big factor in him flipping the switch."