Francisco Continues Annual Winter Dominance





CINCINNATI—Juan Francisco had another outstanding year in the Dominican League.

Francisco hit .322/.380/.559 in 152 at-bats, while his eight home runs gave him a total of 31 over the last three seasons in the league. He ranked second in the regular season in homers and batting while leading the league with 30 RBIs.

But big numbers in the winter leagues haven't translated into any kind of permanent role in the big leagues for Francisco.

That's because the Reds have Scott Rolen at third base. Francisco has played some outfield, but the club hasn't tried him there in the big leagues.

"(Francisco) is better off than some of the others," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Scottie is only going to play 120 games. Someone else has to play the other 40."

Francisco, 23, is a leading candidate for that time, but he's going to have to show more consistency defensively to get playing time over Miguel Cairo. His bat, however, is near being ready. He hit .277/.322/.382 in 55 at-bats for the Reds last year and .286/.325/.565 in 308 at-bats with Triple-A Louisville, missing about four weeks after an appendectomy.

Francisco has hit consistently since the Reds signed him in 2004, but he's always shown a lack of plate discipline. Even this winter, he drew just 11 walks in 39 games—five of them intentional.

"I like him a lot," Baker said. "He can hit. He's going to hit even more when he swings at better pitches."

RED HOTS

• Shortstop Billy Hamilton said switch-hitting became second nature as the season wore on in Rookie-level Billings. Hamilton, a natural righthanded hitter, took up switching after being drafted in the second round in 2009. "I like hitting left as much as right now," he said. "I'm starting to feel real good from that side." Hamilton hit .309 lefthanded and .362 righthanded.

• The Reds' Double-A Carolina affiliate will move from Zebulon, N.C., to Pensacola, Fla., for the 2012 season.