Could Francisco Flash in the Tribe’s Pan Twice?
By Christian Petrila
I was torn as to whether or not I should consider this player a “Flash.” However, seeing as how he’s returning to the Indians, I figured it was an appropriate time to look back at him.
This week’s Flash in a Pan is Ben Francisco.
Unlike Brady Anderson last week who ended his career with the Tribe, Francisco began his career with a Chief Wahoo patch on the shoulder. A fifth round pick in the 2002 amateur draft, the Indians let Francisco age in the minors like a fine wine. Despite reaching Akron in only his third year in the system and Triple-A Buffalo only a year and a half later, Francisco wouldn’t reach the MLB until 2007 after five plus years in the system.
Francisco made his MLB debut on May 1, 2007 against Toronto. However, one could make the argument that it could hardly be considered a debut, as he entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning and didn’t get a chance to swing the bat. After another stint in the minors that would keep him out of an Indians uniform until June 22, Francisco finally got his first at bat in the Majors. His first at bats came in two pinch hit appearances against Washington. He struck out both times. However, his next two games would turn out to be memorable.
In a June 26 game against Oakland, the Indians trailed 5-3 in the ninth. With one on and two outs, Victor Martinez drew a walk and Francisco promptly entered the game as a pinch runner. The next batter was Travis Hafner, who hit a ball into the gap in right-center field. Grady Sizemore scored easily from second, and he was followed by Francisco who scored just in front of the tag. After the A’s intentionally walked Jhonny Peralta, Kelly Shoppach launched his famous “run-off” home run onto the Home Run Porch, and the Indians emerged with one of their many improbable wins of that 2007 campaign.
Just three days later, it was Francisco’s turn to provide the heroics. Making his first start in a game against the Devil Rays, his first hit came in the fourth inning of a scoreless game off of Edwin Jackson. However, things would only get better for Francisco from there. Leading off the ninth inning with the game tied at 1-1, Francisco took a 2-2 pitch from Shawn Camp and parked it into the bleachers for a walk off home run. Not too bad for a first career start.
The rest of the 2007 season would be exciting for Francisco. He would hit two more homers in his next three games. When all was said and done, he hit .274 with those three home runs and 12 RBI. Unfortunately for him, though, the Indians would leave him off the playoff roster.
In 2008, Francisco’s playing time would improve greatly. He played in 121 games that year as the primary left fielder. He hit .266 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI. By the time 2009 was over, his first stint with the Tribe would be too. He played in 89 games for the Indians in ’09 while hitting .250 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI, but would be shipped off to Philadelphia along with Cliff Lee for Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco and Lou Marson. In 37 games for the Phillies, he hit .278 with five homers and 13 RBI. That year, he also made his first playoff experience. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t pretty. He would go 0-11 throughout the postseason as the Phillies lost to the Yankees in the World Series.
The next year, Francisco hit .268 with six home runs and 28 RBI. He made the playoff roster once again and finally earned his first playoff hit in Game 4 of the NLCS. The Phillies would exit in the NLCS that year. The following season, Francisco’s average dropped to .244 while hitting six home runs and 34 RBI. In Philadelphia’s first round exit, Francisco had one hit- a dramatic three-run homer in Game 3 against St. Louis. The Phillies would lose that game 3-2, but would lose the series by that same margin.
Last season was a tour for Francisco. He was traded to Toronto for Frank Gailey after the season ended. After hitting .240 in 27 games with the Blue Jays, they shipped him off along with Asher Wojciehowski, Carlos Perez, David Rollins, Kevin Comer, Joseph Musgrove and Francisco Cordero to Houston for David Carpenter, J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon. In 31 games with Houston, he hit .247 with two home runs and five RBI before once again getting traded. This time, he was sent to the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named later.
So the journey has come full circle for Ben Francisco. Cleveland fans hope that his second tour of Cleveland can lead to a playoff appearance like his first.
Photo: Associated Press