* LHP Jeff Francis, who had a whirlwind of a season in 2014, spending time with three different organizations (including the New York Yankees), is now done for the year and thinking about his future plans. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College …. MLB Scouting Bureau camps 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
By Alexis Brudnicki
During the off-season, Jeff Francis admitted that “it can be tough” to deal with the uncertainties of baseball and the logistics of moving a family of four all over the country in pursuit of the game.
That was before this year started and the 33-year-old husband to Allison and father to two children under the age of five, Cameron and Miles, moved five times in five months through four teams and three different organizations.
“It was a whirlwind,” Francis said. “We’ve bounced all over the place. It was a lot of picking up and moving at the drop of a hat, more than I’ve had to do in years past. So that part was tough, but in no way did it diminish how I approached baseball. I still had a lot of fun…it’s a shame that it ended a little sooner than is ideal.”
This season is now over for the southpaw, who retreated home to London, Ont., to wait out his designation for assignment by the New York Yankees. When his most recent team released him, Francis decided it would be best to remain with his family and take some extra time to think about what might be next.
“I actually got a few calls for triple-A jobs, but there are only three weeks left,” the Vancouver-born hurler said. “And when Allie and the kids came back, everybody got sick, probably because their bodies just gave out after travelling around all summer.
“So the fact that I was here for a little while waiting for the Yankees to release or trade me … and me being here for that, trying to get everybody healthy and trying to take care of things here, just to play another three weeks in triple-A, I figured why not take the rest of the summer off and try to think more about what I want to do for next year?”
Getting close to the elusive 10-year mark in the big leagues, when pension benefits increase significantly for major league players, Francis isn’t worried about service time. He does, however, have a lot of questions moving forward that he needs to find answers to as his off-season continues.
“The ten-year thing is not really in my mind,” he said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t think I can get there, but to me it’s not a goal that I’ve worked for. It’s more on the field, more like pitching. I’m trying to sort it out in my head and I don’t even have it figured out yet, but sitting down with my family about what’s important; sitting down with my trainer and talking to some old coaches about what kind of image for next year I can have in my mind to go for a full winter of training.
“If I don’t have a goal in my mind, then what’s going to get me through those tough workouts in December? And if I can’t get through those tough workouts then I’m not doing myself any favours.”
The left-hander’s arm is perfectly fine, which complicates his impending choice.
“Health-wise, everything is good,” Francis said. “I think that’s why the idea of not playing next year doesn’t sit so well, just because I’m not old and I still am healthy…regretting [a decision] would be the worst thing.”
So far in his first week away from the game, Francis is feeling pretty good about his choice to complete his season a little bit earlier than usual. After throwing a bullpen session with recently-retired Dorchester, Ont. native Chris Robinson on Monday – just in case – the pitcher is happy to pack his glove away for a couple of months.
“At this point in the summer, my heart’s not in it,” Francis said. “With the designation for assignment, the Yankees had 10 days to trade me or release me so there was a possibility until about a couple days ago that they could have traded me.
“So I needed to stay loose in case I had to go somewhere and play. I called up Robbie and we met to throw. But I saw him again [on Thursday], I went to one of his camps and I didn’t even bring my glove. I don’t think I’m going to be throwing a ball until about October.”
Francis had multiple periods of downtime this season between transactions. He started with the Cincinnati Reds in triple-A Louisville, was called up to the big-league club for one five-inning start as part of a doubleheader, and was then designated.
He was claimed off waivers by the Athletics in May and traded to the Yankees in early July, before receiving another designation. So how did he stay in game shape the whole time?
“You don’t,” Francis said. “I try to stay loose by throwing. I had to find a catch partner in Denver when I left Oakland, at least to stay loose. I couldn’t get off a mound and I certainly couldn’t go and face hitters, but I had to try and stay loose so when I got to New York I felt like getting on the mound wasn’t that foreign, and that conditioning-wise I was up to be able to pitch, which I felt like I was.”
The lefty made two appearances for the Yankees and allowed one run over 1 2/3 innings of work. With the Athletics, he made nine relief appearances over 13 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs with three walks and 10 strikeouts.
In Oakland, Francis thought he and his family might be able to make themselves comfortable, seeking somewhat-more-permanent residency than the other temporary homes they had found in other places. While they were out on the west coast the longest, they still couldn’t settle.
“When I got to Oakland, there was a house that a player had that he was trying to get rid of, so it was easy to walk into it,” Francis said. “So we brought everybody down to live there and we were there for about a month before they designated me for assignment.
“So then we had to sort of pack up that place fairly quickly and head back to Denver, but we were able to do it because the lease was friendly to ballplayers.”
And that was really the only place where the Francis family made an attempt this season to build a new home base.
“In places where we felt like we were going to be a while, we did – we rented homes and had leases we had to cut short at times,” Francis said. “Places we weren’t there for very long, like New York, we had a hotel room we stayed in for a week.
“And I spent some time on my own; the family spent some time retreating here to London just to have a base. We spent some time in Denver in between playing for Oakland and New York. We’ve been everywhere.”
And a few of their belongings are still…everywhere.
“Some of them are sitting in Denver,” Francis said. “Actually, one of our cars is sitting in Denver, so we’re planning on trying to make a trip back there to recover everything.”
But now, they have time to do that, and Francis also has a chance to catch up on an experience he’s never had before – being home in August.
“It’s brilliant,” he said. “I’ve never spent time in Ontario in the summer. All my knowledge of London is in the winter and fall, so this is great. I’m [getting] a lot more time outside than I’m used to…we’ve been swimming in the neighbour’s pool, we’ve been riding our bikes down the street; we rode our bikes to gymnastics class. In the winter you can’t do that, so it’s a nice change.”
-- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis