When he was put on the disabled list June 23rd with a strained oblique muscle, the Mets were hoping that closer Frank Francisco would be able to return to action close to when he was eligible to come off the DL. However, after suffering a setback last week, it looks as if New York will have to keep playing without their closer until at least early August.
The plan moving forward for Francisco is to rest until Monday, when he will throw the first of two bullpen sessions. His second bullpen session is scheduled for Wednesday, and if all goes according to plan, he will begin another rehab assignment next Friday, July 27th. Once he has participated in two or three games on the minor league level and doesn’t feel any lingering effects from his injury, he will be activated off the disabled list and return to the team.
Bobby Parnellhas been assuming the closer role since Francisco went down with his injury, and after converting his first two save
opportunities and looking comfortable in the ninth inning, Parnell has blown two straight opportunities. Terry Collins has suggested that the young flame thrower take a page out of Francisco’s book and start using both sides of the plate more. He’s been throwing his new knuckle curveball more often than ever (he threw it eight straight times Tuesday night against the Nationals), so being able to locate his fastball will make his secondary pitches even more effective.
The improvement of Parnell this season has been due to the control of his fastball and being able to locate it on both sides of the plate. He has gotten away from that a bit as the closer, but he needs to have faith in his number one pitch. Busting someone on the hands with a 100 mph fastball and then throwing a breaking ball on the outside corner will throw opposing hitters for a loop; in fact, it has when he’s done it earlier this season, he just needs to get back to that plan.
If Parnell continues to struggle, Collins can call upon Jon Rauch, who has some experience as a closer. I scratched my head as to why Collins didn’t bring the big righty in on Tuesday to shut the door in the 10th, but he got both his knees drained before making an appearance last night in the ninth, throwing a hitless inning and striking out two.
Oblique injuries are never easy to come back from, mostly because players don’t realize how much they use their obliques before they injure it. So, even though there is an early-August target return for Francisco, there is no guarantee he’ll be ready by then, which puts more pressure on Alderson to bring in some external help for the bullpen.