Nine-year veteran with 140 career homers was struggling this season
MINNEAPOLIS -- Right fielder Jeff Francoeur was dropped by the Royals on Saturday and second baseman Johnny Giavotella was recalled from Triple-A Omaha.
By designating the struggling Francoeur for assignment, the Royals cleared more playing time for David Lough and Jarrod Dyson. It's also an attempt to solidify the second-base position, where backups Elliot Johnson and Miguel Tejada had been playing.
General manager Dayton Moore indicated the moves were intended to help the Royals' offense, which has struggled to score runs.
"We wanted to get another infield bat up here, and Johnny Giavotella has been swinging the bat very well at Omaha and, obviously, with Dyson coming back and the way that David Lough played there wasn't much opportunity for Jeff to get in there as much as I think he needs to be in order to be effective," Moore said.
Giavotella, 26, had been the Royals' starting second baseman for part of 2011 and 2012 but lost a battle for the job in Spring Training to Chris Getz, who was optioned to Omaha a week ago after batting just .214.
"It's pretty exciting to come up and play some baseball in the big leagues," Giavotella said by phone.
Starting on Sunday against the Twins, Giavotella will get another shot at the job. He's been on a tear with the Storm Chasers, with a 10-game hitting streak in which he's batted .472.
"I was feeling pretty good at the plate," he said. "I just hope to keep it going up there for Kansas City. I'll help out as much as I can. I hope to contribute in as many ways as possible."
Overall, Giavotella was hitting .287 (83-for-287) in 77 games.
"Johnny is a spark plug and he can swing the bat," Moore said. "He brings a lot of energy and we enjoy watching him play and compete."
In his two seasons with the Royals, Giavotella hit .242 with three homers and 36 RBIs in 99 games. His downside has been his defense, but he's worked hard in recent seasons to improve his range and agility around second base.
Since Getz was sent to Omaha, Johnson is 0-for-15 and Tejada is 2-for-12.
Francoeur was hitting only .208 (28-for-183) with three homers and 13 RBIs this year for the Royals.
Efforts to deal Francoeur apparently failed -- he is in the second year of a contract that pays him $6.75 million in 2013. Now the Royals have 10 days in which to trade him or, if he clears waivers as expected, to release him. If released, the Royals will be liable for the remainder of his salary.
He earned his two-year deal with a strong comeback season with the Royals in 2011, when he batted .285 with 47 doubles, 20 homers and 87 RBIs. He also had a career-high 22 stolen bases
However, he slipped to .235 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs last season.
"Jeff had a great year for us in 2011 and he was solid for us last year, but he had a tough ending," Moore said. "He didn't get going for us this year. He had some big hits for us this year, won some ballgames for us."
Francoeur had only five hits in his last 31 at-bats, but two of them were game-tying home runs. An outstanding defensive player in right field, Francoeur's three assists this year gave him 119 in his career.
The Royals signed Francoeur as a free agent for the 2011 season after he'd played with the New York Mets and the American League champion Texas Rangers in 2010. He was a highly-touted first-round Draft choice when he broke in with the Atlanta Braves in 2003 and stayed there until being dealt to the Mets in July 2009.
"He's been an incredible teammate and brought a winning attitude every day and made a real positive difference in our community, so he's a winner," Moore said. "He'll be fine."
That leaves the Royals with an outfield anchored by left fielder Alex Gordon, with Lorenzo Cain likely to switch off with Dyson in center field and Lough in right field. Cain is a right-handed hitter; Dyson and Lough bat left-handed.
Lough has a .291 average in 34 games with one home run and 11 RBIs with the Royals since being called up on May 16. Dyson is batting .278 in 23 games and came off the disabled list from an ankle sprain last Saturday. He had just started to get increased playing time when he was injured in Anaheim, clearing the way for Lough's arrival.