New-look Franco hopes to get back to slugging ways with Royals

Maikel Franco is set to become the Royals' everyday third baseman.
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SURPRISE, Ariz. — Maikel Franco has a new look to go along with a new attitude.

Franco had short hair, rather than his usual shoulder-length dreadlocks, when he arrived at the Kansas City Royals’ spring training clubhouse.

In fact, Royals catcher Salvador Perez did not recognize him at first when Franco showed up in Miami to work out together.

“In general, I just want to be different this year,” Franco said. “A new year, a new team, a new experience. I’ve got a lot of reputation, but I’m just trying to be a new guy.”

Franco was let go by the Philadelphia Phillies after hitting .234 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs last season. The Royals signed him to a one-year, $2.95 million contract on Dec. 27 with a chance to earn another $1.05 million in performance bonuses.

Franco is set to become the Royals’ everyday third baseman.

Hunter Dozier, who started 99 games at third base for the Royals last year, will shift to right field. Cheslor Cuthbert, Chris Owings and Kelvin Gutierrez also started games at third in 2019.

Franco’s offense declined so precipitously last season that the Phillies demoted him in August to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for 12 games to find his swing.

“A lot of things happened last year,” Franco said. “I don’t play the way I used to. Last year is over. I’m trying to just focus on this year. There are a lot of opportunities for me this year. I just want to do my best.

“I just want to go out every single day and do the best I can for my team and try to help my team. Now I’m here this year. Now I’m going to do my best here. I’m going to do better.”

Franco hit 22 or more home runs in three straight seasons. He drove in 88 runs in 2016 and had 29 doubles in 2017, numbers the Royals believe he can duplicate.

Franco became more of a groundball hitter last season as his offense tapered off. The Royals are trying to get him to hit the ball more in the air.

“That’s what they have me working on,” Franco said. “I put a lot of work on that in the offseason. At the end of the day, you have to make an adjustment, so that’s what I’ve been doing right now.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny recalled Franco was a tough out when he managed St. Louis.

“He’s been a little streaky at times, but a lot of good hitters have been,” Matheny said. “When he was hot, personally, I was on the bad end of that at times. I could see this guy has the ability to carry a team. He has dangerous power and I thought that he played a really good defense.”

Matheny said Franco has something to prove.

“He’s got an edge,” he said. “He feels that maybe something is slipping away. He had a good opportunity, a good start (to his career) and then it kind of wasn’t what he wanted. He wants to go out and prove to people what kind of player he is. It’s a good fit.”