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June 24. 2013 7:23PM

Roger Brown's On Baseball: Reading's Maikel Franco a hot shot


Reading Fightin Phils third baseman Maikel Franco takes batting practice before playing the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester Monday. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- READING FIGHTIN PHILS third baseman Maikel Franco may be the only thing as hot as Monday’s temperature.

Since being promoted from Single-A Clearwater of the Florida State League, Franco has hit .471 (8 for 17) with two home runs, a triple and five RBIs in four games. He had four hits, four RBIs and scored twice in Sunday’s 14-6 triumph over Richmond.

Franco was scheduled to start at third Monday night, when Reading opened a three-game series against the Fisher Cats.

“He’s a pretty well put together player right now for a 20-year-old at this level,” Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. “He has very good balance at the plate. He’s got power. I think he can hit for average. He doesn’t swing and miss often.

“He makes very good adjustments on pitches,” Wathan continued. “A lot of guys — especially guys his age — they’ll find a weakness and keep going to it. From what I’ve seen of him here and a couple games in spring training he’ll make adjustments in the middle of his at bat.

“Defensively, very strong arm. Comes in on the ball very well as far as bunts and things. Maybe doesn’t have the prototypical range, but for a third baseman I think he’s more than adequate. I’d say the one thing he may lack is tremendous foot speed to steal bases.”

Franco began the 2013 season ranked as Philadelphia’s No. 8 prospect by Baseball America, but has likely improved his position this year. He entered Monday’s contest with a 10-game hitting streak (with Clearwater and Reading). He was hitting .432 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs during that span.

“I’m working hard every day,” Franco said. “If I stop someone else will get a turn.

“I was so excited (when he was promoted). My first reaction was to call my family in the Dominican and say, ‘Dad, I got another level now.’

“I hit good. My defense good. My arm is strong. My legs a little bit slow, so I work on my agility all the time.

“The first four games here I’ve played good. I’m so happy for that.”

Franco hit .299 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 65 games with Clearwater this season before he was promoted. He spent 2012 with Single-A Lakewood (N.J.), where he batted .280 with 14 home runs, 84 RBIs and 32 doubles in 132 games.

“He’s 20 years old and he’s worked on his English enough to be confident enough to speak with (the media), so that’s pretty impressive for a 20-year-old kid who’s been in the United States for about three years,” Wathan said. “That just shows you what kind of makeup the kid has. He has a desire to do everything to the best of his ability, whether it’s language, defense or hitting.

“He’s kind of got the total package.”

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According to multiple reports, rehabbing shortstop Jose Reyes (ankle) is scheduled to be with the Fisher Cats for Wednesday night’s game against Reading. Reyes was scheduled to play his final game with Triple-A Buffalo on Monday night and then fly to Boston on Tuesday. He will likely join Toronto for the Blue Jays’ series against the Red Sox that begins Thursday.

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Marcus Walden tossed a complete-game shutout in New Hampshire’s 7-0 triumph over Harrisburg on Sunday. It was the first complete-game shutout by a New Hampshire pitcher since Kyle Drabek tossed a no-hitter on July 4, 2010. … Entering Monday’s game, New Hampshire catcher A.J. Jimenez had collected at least one hit in each of his 11 games with the Fisher Cats. He was 21-for-47 (.447) during that span, and had thrown out all three runners who had attempted to steal against him. … Reading first baseman Jim Murphy began the week leading the Eastern League in home runs (15).

rbrown@unionleader.com


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