There will be new faces in the middle of the infield next season for the University of Maine baseball team.
Mike Fransoso, who was expected to move from second base to become the starting shortstop, is likely to miss the 2011 season because of a hip injury.
The slick-fielding sophomore from Portsmouth, N.H., will undergo surgery Jan. 5 to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.
“They said probably about four to six months would be full recovery,” said Fransoso, who first began experiencing problems last spring in the form of pain in the groin area.
“I thought I’d just have to stretch it,” he explained. “I’d do a bunch of stretching and it didn’t get better. This fall, it kind of progressively got worse and worse.”
Fransoso said he aggravated the injury during a weightlifting session in October, when he felt a ripping sensation from his groin area up into his abdomen.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder will have the surgery performed by Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, Tenn. Byrd works with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and also served with the U.S. Olympic team at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.
“We just want him to be healthy,” said UMaine head coach Steve Trimper.
“He’s a very important part of our team (for us) to win, but we obviously want him to get it fixed.”
Fransoso said the surgery is similar to the procedures performed on Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Mike Lowell, formerly of the Boston Red Sox. His recuperation time depends upon the magnitude of the injury.
It was a smooth transition to the Division I ranks last season for Fransoso. He earned America East All-Rookie recognition after batting .300 with three home runs and 30 runs batted in.
The lefthanded batter led the Black Bears with 57 runs scored and ranked second on the team with 16 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He was one of three UMaine players who started all 56 games last season.
“Mike’s obviously a leader,” Trimper said. “We need a leader in the middle of the infield. He brings that to us, too.”
In the field, he committed only nine errors in 292 chances, a .969 fielding percentage. He was involved in most of the Bears’ 48 double plays.
“He’s a hell of a shortstop,” Trimper said.
Fransoso, who is likely to utilize a medical redshirt next season, would have three years of eligibility remaining.
“It’s not going to be fun,” said Fransoso, who has been told he should be 100 percent once he is healed and does some rehabilitation.
The absence of Fransoso means three freshmen and a sophomore are likely to compete for playing time at shortstop and second base.
That group includes first-year players Mike Connolly of Middleborough, Mass., Troy Black of Mississauga, Ontario, Eric White of Brewer and sophomore Robbie Trask of Saco.
Connolly was expected to be the starter at second base, but now probably will move to shortstop. That would open the door for one of the others to take over at second. All of the youngsters arrived at UMaine having been shortstops in their high school careers.
UMaine also will have a newcomer at third base in Canadian freshman Alex Calbick, so the Bears’ infield experience will be limited.
Fransoso is confident his teammates will be able to get the job done.
“There are some pretty good kids. They need to get a little bit of exposure and get a couple games under their belt,” he said.
Fransoso said he will do whatever he can to help his teammates make a good transition to Division I baseball.
“Hopefully I’ll be in there and be able to help the younger guys out a little bit,” he said.