CLEARWATER, Fla. - Jeff Francoeur leaned against the batting cage on Wednesday morning and stood next to Charlie Manuel as another Phillies player took his swings. The former Phillies manager and his newest pupil talked about Manuel's favorite subject: the art of hitting.
Francoeur said one of the main reasons he joined the Phillies for spring training was to have a chance to work with Manuel. The two often spoke when Francoeur played with Atlanta. Manuel reminds Francoeur of Braves manager Bobby Cox. They're both old-school guys, Francoeur said.
"Everyday is, 'Let's hit, let's hit.' He can't wait to hit," Francoeur said.
Francoeur talked Tuesday with Ryan Howard about how Manuel instills confidence in players.
Manuel is in his first season as one of the camp's guest instructors. Francoeur said that when he has a few good swings and then pops a ball up, Manuel responds: "Get it next time."
"It's that mentality that in baseball - more than anything else - that you have to have," Francoeur said. ". . . If you take each at-bat and grind on it and chew it, it's going to be a long year."
Francoeur spent most of last season in the minors, hitting .289 with 15 home runs in 115 games with San Diego's triple-A affiliate. He's competing for a reserve outfield spot. His advantage could be his defense. Francoeur has a career .984 fielding percentage.
"He's really buying into the simple approach that we're talking about - line drives and swinging down at the baseball," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I'm anxious to see him in game situations and also going through the camp."
The Phillies coaching staff wants Francoeur to cut down on his swing. Manuel told him that he looked as if he "wanted to hit the ball so bad" that he would often get himself in trouble by swinging at a bad pitch.
"That's where that football mentality sometimes can hurt me," said Francoeur, who was a high school football star. "Being able to tone that down starts in the cage. If you're swinging 80, 85 percent in the cage, that keeps carrying over. When you get to the game, it will take over and go."
In his turn to bat, Francoeur drove a deep, arching fly ball. Everyone around the batting cage watched as it landed in the parking lot beyond the left-field fence.
"Holy," Howard said.
Francoeur laughed and walked out of the cage. His session was over. The pupil went back and leaned on the fence next to his instructor. The lesson appeared to be working.