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Franco hits 8th spring home run for Phillies in 4-4 tie

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CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Maikel Franco hit his eighth home run of the spring for the Philadelphia Phillies in their 4-4 tie with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.

Franco entered the game leading all major league players this spring with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 17 exhibition games.

The 23-year-old, a National League Rookie of the Year candidate before breaking his left hand in August, hit 14 home runs in 80 games with the Phillies last season.

''Hurry up and get to April,'' joked Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, whose pitch broke Franco's hand. He was pitching for the Diamondbacks. ''I don't think he'll stop, but we need to hurry up and get there.''

The right-hander walked three and struck out four in his next to last start of the spring for the Phillies.

Marco Estrada gave up the Franco home run, while striking out six and walking two in 3 2/3 innings. The homer came off a 1-2 cutter.

''I need to work on my cutter a little more,'' the right-hander said. ''The two home runs I've given up (this spring) have been on the exact same pitch. I'm trying to go down and away to a righty and I miss middle-away. It was belt high, middle-away. I have to work on that.''

A half inning after Franco's home run broke a scoreless tie, Hellickson served up a two-run home run to Casey Kotchman.

''It wasn't where I wanted, but it was still out of the zone,'' said Hellickson, who played with Kotchman in Tampa Bay in 2011. ''He's a good hitter, he can catch up to that. I just missed my spot.''


Phillies: Hellickson said he had too many three-ball counts. He was lifted after throwing 4 2/3 innings. Hellickson is on tap to start the Grapefruit League finale on Wednesday. Earlier this week, manager Pete Mackanin named the 28-year-old his Opening Day starter.

Blue Jays: Estrada, who battled back tightness earlier this spring, said he was still somewhat rusty after his second spring start. ''I felt good - still off, but that's expected,'' he said ''I still have to catch up a little bit.'' Estrada said he still believes he'll be ready to begin the season in Toronto's rotation after one more spring start on Wednesday.


Phillies: CF Odubel Herrera returned to the lineup for the first time in 13 days. Herrera was held out with inflammation on his left middle finger, an injury that first occurred while sliding headfirst into home on March 6. Herrera was given a small protective guard to begin hitting with earlier this week. . Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki returned to the lineup just two days after being hit in the right hand by a Bartolo Colon fastball in a game with the Mets. An X-ray was negative and Tulowitzki tested his hand in the cage Friday morning before being cleared for the game.

UP NEXT: The Phillies host the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, with left-handed reliever James Russell on tap to start opposite former Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander. Toronto will play host to the New York Yankees in Dunedin, with Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ on tap to pitch opposite right-hander Bryan Mitchell.

RE-PETE: The Phillies announced a new two-year contract for manager Pete Mackanin on Friday, voiding his previous contract for the 2016 season. The deal includes a club option for 2018. Mackanin was promoted from interim to manager in September after taking over for Ryne Sandberg in June. General manager Matt Klentak presented the contract to Mackanin earlier this week: ''I only needed about 10 seconds,'' Mackanin said. ''I said I'm good without reading it. We discussed it a couple of days ago and it led to this. I couldn't be happier.''

FRIDAY CUTS: The Blue Jays sent three pitchers to minor league camp on Friday: left-hander Chad Girodo and right-handers David Aardsma and Chad Jenkins. Toronto has 44 players remaining on its roster.