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Maikel Franco could've been a Yankee, but Bombers got cheap

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiCorey Sipkin/New York Daily News

Phillies rookie Maikel Franco has clobbered the Yankees in this series, with three homers and 10 RBI in his first two games at the Stadium.

The sight of Maikel Franco coming to the plate Wednesday at Yankee Stadium will strike fear in the hearts of Yankees fans.

The fact that he was almost a Yankee will break their hearts.

MCCARRON: DON’T EXPECT CC SABATHIA TO MOVE TO BULLPEN

The Phillies rookie, who has tormented Yankee pitching in the first two games of their series to the tune of 10 RBI and three homers, nearly signed with the Yankees as an international free agent, but, according to one report, signed with the Phillies because they offered — wait for it — $ 5,000 more.

Franco confirmed Wednesday morning that he nearly signed with the Yankees in January of 2010, when he was a free agent prospect out of the Dominican Republic.

According to a tweet from CSN’s Jim Salisbury, the only thing separating the Yankees and Phillies was $ 5,000. Reportedly, the Yankees offered a $ 95,000 signing bonus while the Phillies offered $ 100,000. Franco also said he spent two or three weeks at the Yankees complex in Santo Domingo before making his decision.

“It’s tough. I know I was almost close to coming here and almost close to signing to the Yankees,” the third baseman said while sitting at his locker in the visitors’ clubhouse.

Five years after the fact, Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s memory isn’t quite as clear as Franco’s apparently.

“I have no records that indicate that, but it doesn’t mean his claim isn’t accurate,” Cashman wrote in an email to the Daily News. “A lot of conversations take place down there (in the Dominican), some more real than others.”

Franco’s performance at the plate in the past two games has been historically impressive. With five RBI in Monday’s 11-8 victory and five more in Tuesday’s 11-6 win, Franco became the first player in history to drive in at least five runs in consecutive games against the Yankees, according to the Elias Sport Bureau. RBI became an official stat in 1920.

“I feel pretty good for that. (I) just want to go out there and not try to think about nothing. I just go and play my game the right way,” Franco said. “I make history yesterday, so I want to continue to do that. I want to just keep it up and keep doing what I’m doing right now.”

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The 22-year-old hit three home runs in the two contests and also made a diving stop and laser throw from third base to rob Chris Young of a hit on Monday night.

“He had been swinging the bat good for them, and he’s just continued to do it,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s hit sliders, curveballs, fastballs, out over the plate, in, I mean he’s hit everything. So right now, he’s extremely dangerous.”

CC Sabathia faced Franco three times in his less-than-stellar outing Tuesday night. The burly lefthander walked Franco in the first inning, induced a groundout to shortstop in the third inning and surrendered a three-run home run in the fourth.

Sabathia said he’s most impressed with Franco’s plate discipline despite the infielder’s inexperience.

“Most young guys come up here and they just hacking,” said Sabathia, who gave up six earned runs over 4-2/3 innings in the loss. “He’s got a good approach at the plate, and I think that’s what’s paying off for him.”

The key to thwarting Franco in the future, Sabathia said, is maintaining pitch variety.

“You’ve got to move it all around. He’s not a guy you can repeat pitches on and get him out the same way,” Sabathia said. “He’s going to be a tough out.”

Since he was called up to the majors on May 15, Franco has taken the league by storm. He’s hitting .319 — .415 in June — with 10 home runs and 29 RBI, enough to make a late push for the Phillies’ spot on the National League All-Star roster.

It’s a great story for a league that’s budding with young position-playing stars.

Unless you’re the Yankees, of course.

All they can do is think about what could have been.

JUSTIN LANE/EPA

Maikel Franco could have been at third base for the Yankees, but a $ 5,000 difference in the signing bonus amounts led him to sign with the Phillies.

With ANTHONY MCCARRON

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maikel franco ,
philadelphia phillies

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