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Kevin Frandsen came to the Nationals on ‘leap of faith’

Keith Frandsen (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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Shock came first for Kevin Frandsen. He envisioned himself as part of the Phillies, playing for a manager he loved in Ryne Sandberg. Sunday, the Phillies sent him to Class AAA. He had 72 hours to decide if he wanted to play in the minors or opt out of a contract that guaranteed him $900,000.

Queasiness came Monday. “Sick to my stomach,” Frandsen said. His decision formed in his mind, and Tuesday brought confidence. He believed himself a big league player, and he believed other teams would see him that way, too. He walked away from $900,000 and became a free agent.

“I feel like I did it mostly off a leap of faith,” Frandsen said. “People thought I was crazy. But at the same time, I thought I earned myself an opportunity to be in the big leagues. I know I’m a big league player, I know I can help a big league team out. And I feel like I’m a winning player. I want to help out and win something.”

Before Tuesday evening, the Nationals validated Frandsen’s belief. They contacted him with interest in signing him as a pinch hitter capable of playing second base and both corner infield spots.  By Wednesday morning, Frandsen had signed a contract – $900,000 guaranteed, with a chance to make $300,000 more. Thursday morning, he rode with his new team on a bus from Viera to Port St. Lucie, and tonight he will head to Washington with the Nationals.

“That was what was hard, leaving him and all those guys in that clubhouse,” Frandsen said. “On the other hand, I’ve been around long enough to know this is a business. They made their decision, thought I was roster flexibility. And I didn’t feel that way. I have a lot more pride in myself, I feel like. I know that wasn’t so much really from [Sandberg] at all. But it is what it is. The Nationals gave me an opportunity. They were aggressive, obviously willing to show the confidence in what Philly saw just to sign me in the first place.”

Frandsen valued signing with a contender. He started his career with the Giants in 2004 and made his major league debut in 2006, appearing every season for San Francisco until 2009 – right before the Giants won two World Series in three years.

“I’m coming to a very promising team now,” Frandsen said. “Ultimately, I’ve said to everyone over there – I’m jealous of all my buddies in San Francisco that have two rings now. I want my hands to be a little heavier.”

Manager Matt Williams wanted Frandsen because he provides versatility. He also gives the Nationals a right-handed-hitting first baseman with more experience than Ryan Zimmerman, who played two innings in a game at first base all spring. Zimmerman, though, worked out at first base on a backfield many mornings. Even though Frandsen can also play first, Zimmerman could still play there, and even get some starts against a tough left-hander.

“Now that Kevin is here, he certainly has experience,” Williams said. “Zim has less experience. But I’m not afraid to do that. He’s a fantastic athlete. He catches everything. If it calls for it, and we want to do that, we all feel comfortable we could accomplish that.”