ARLINGTON -- The Indians were averaging nearly seven runs a game in Ben Francisco's last nine starts entering Saturday's contest against the Rangers. That's no coincidence. During that span, Francisco is hitting .400 with eight runs, seven multi-hit games and a home run. He's done it all from the third spot in the Cleveland order. While the Indians would expect even better run production from the spot if Victor Martinez or Travis Hafner were there, they have no complaints with the job Francisco has done filling their shoes. "Bennie's really stepped in and done a good job," manager Eric Wedge said. "We threw him into the third spot in the order in the middle of the season, probably unfairly, and he's bounced around a bit. I don't expect him to end up there when Martinez and Hafner get back, but I think the experience there has been valuable for him."
Francisco has come a long way from the player who was moved from the bottom of the order to fill in for Martinez and Hafner and whose average was down to .269 on July 29 after an 0-for-4 day. Since then, Francisco has had more multi-hit games when starting, 10, than no-hit games, three. But he doesn't think of himself in terms of where he bats in the order. "It's nothing special," Francisco said. "I don't think about it too much. It's just an opportunity to play, and I'll take an opportunity to play whether it's third in thes order or ninth. Succeeding anywhere is going to make you feel good. But we have a month left and anything can happen." Since being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo May 6, Francisco has been a mainstay in the Tribe order, be it the eighth spot or even as high as the second. As a result, he's given himself an outside shot at the American League Rookie of the Year. His .288 average entering Saturday is fourth among American League rookies. He's also fourth in runs, third in doubles, fifth in home runs, fifth in hits, fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in RBIs and fourth in total bases. He leads all rookies in outfield assists. And he has an opportunity to improve his rank in those categories with Rookie of the Year frontrunners Evan Longoria and David Murphy on the disabled list for their respective teams. "We'll see," Francisco said. "There are a lot of good rookies. I'm not worried about it, though, I'm just focused on what I need to do to improve. "I feel like I can improve in all areas. I want to be a better hitter and baserunner. I want to be able to steal more bases. Baseball's a game where you're always learning and always looking to get better.
Shawn Shroyer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.