Francoeur heads to bench after big year

Francoeur heads to bench after big year

Francoeur heads to bench after big year
CHICAGO -- Jeff Francoeur got on the Royals' late bus -- the 10 a.m.'er, -- to the ballpark on Sunday. Most of the other players had taken the early bus, but Frenchy was feeling laid back and relaxed. He was, as he put it, part of "the shutdown group."

The late-season shutdowns, which began earlier this month with starting pitchers Danny Duffy, Jeff Francis and Luke Hochevar -- and unofficially also includes closer Joakim Soria, were extended into the outfield, as the Royals faced their last four games of the season.

Right fielder Francoeur, who hammered his 20th home run on Friday night, and left fielder Alex Gordon, just getting over the flu, were not in Sunday's lineup against the White Sox. Manager Ned Yost said they probably wouldn't play in the final three-game series at Minnesota.

Center fielder Melky Cabrera, who shifted to left for three games in Gordon's absence, is slated to join them on the bench once he reaches the 200-hit level.

"We just wanted to see the two young outfielders," Yost said, referring to Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson, who were in Sunday's lineup. When Cabrera sits, Mitch Maier will join them.

Besides, the amazing outfield trio earned a few days off, after rarely missing games all season. They were productive -- each had 87 RBIs as of Sunday and they had combined for 279 runs, 61 homers, 13 triples and 136 doubles -- and were the first outfield in Major League history to each have 40 or more doubles. Defensively, the three of them had a whopping 49 assists.

"I [went] into the season expecting everybody to be good, but I never expected all three of them to be as healthy as they've been," Yost said. "They've been historically good. They've done things that a group of three guys haven't done, ever. They've been just fantastic."