Francoeur packing on the pounds

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francoeur_jeff_fattie.jpgThe take on Jeff Francoeur, who’s noticeably put on the pounds during the offseason, is that he’s not becoming a fatty. Instead, he’s “country strong,” according to his Braves teammates. We’ll see what wins out in this battle of semantics. So far, it seems like the same debate you’ll find on gay cruising sites – what’s a football player build to one is thick and husky to another.

Unfortunately, there’s more at stake here than an online pickup. As the Braves rightfielder is being positioned as the face of the franchise, along with catcher Brian McCann, his performance and that of the team – out of the post season for the last two years – are inextricably linked.

In published photos over the last few months, it’s clear that Francoeur’s 6-foot-4-inch frame has filled out, appearing to push him above the 220 pounds listed as his weight on the team’s Web site. He’s lost the chiseled face and frame symbolic of the cover boy looks that wowed fans when he burst on the scene in 2005.

But his teammates, even the Braves beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, say Francoeur isn’t going soft, but instead added 17 pounds of muscle in the off season. He arrived at Spring Training last week at a whopping 239 pounds. David O’Brien writes:

“It’s obvious that he didn’t gain that weight sitting on the couch eating pizza. The young rightfielder is “ripped,” as the players say, noticeably more muscular in his shoulders, neck and legs.

“He’s country strong,” said new Braves center fielder Mark Kotsay, an 11-year veteran. “One of his legs is bigger than both of mine.”

O’Brien writes that Francoeur spent the winter working with a trainer at Competitive Edge Sports camp, a facility that trains college football players preparing for the NFL scouting combine. Francoeur, who also honeymooned in Mexico with his new bride this winter, says he wanted to add power during the offseason.

“I definitely wanted to add some power this offseason,” said Francoeur, who raised his average from .260 in 2006 to .293 last season, but saw his homers drop from 29 to 19. “I really want to be able to hit 30 home runs; there’s no reason I can’t do that. I got stronger and I feel great. I’ve noticed a difference in the ball jumping off my bat.”

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