It’s been a long journey back to health for Frank Francisco, who went on the disabled list at the end of June with a strained left oblique. He’s experienced two setbacks with his oblique, as well as a separate setback due to a sore knee. After scrapping and stalling multiple rehab assignments, the Mets closer has made five appearances with the Double-A Binghamton Mets, with his last two appearances being the most impressive.
On Tuesday night, Francisco looked dominant, throwing a 1-2-3 inning, which included three strikeouts. Before the Mets decide to activate him off the disabled list, the organization wanted to see how their closer would respond after pitching on consecutive nights. The results were great, as he was able to locate his fastball and splitter last night, giving up a weakly hit double and not giving up a run.
Terry Collins has hinted that Francisco could rejoin the team in San Diego on Friday before they take on the Padres in a weekend series.
It will be nice to have their closer back, who was New York’s most consistent reliever before his injury. In his last ten appearances, Francisco racked up six saves and nine strikeouts in 10.1 innings, compiling a 1.74 ERA. Bobby Parnell has filled in admirably in the closer’s role, as he registered his fourth save in six chances last night against San Francisco, but with the return of Francisco, Collins will have many more options with which to use his relievers.
Parnell can be used in other late inning situations, and the re-emergence of Jon Rauch (1.17 ERA in 11 July appearances) could possibly slide him back into his original eighth inning role. With the most recent bullpen shuffle that occurred, optioning Pedro Beato down to Triple-A and bringing up Manny Acosta, it looks like the two relievers that could be in danger of getting sent down would be either Jeremy Hefner or Elvin Ramirez.
Hefner has made his last two appearances as starts in place of the injured Johan Santana, but one would think he will be moved to the bullpen upon Santana’s return. He would be the one true long reliever in the bullpen, and Collins could use him as a spot starter to give both Johan and Chris Young extra rest through the dog days of August, instead of using R.A. Dickey on short rest. So, my best guess is that Elvin Ramirez will be getting sent back to the minors; before giving up four hits and three runs in an inning of work against the Diamondbacks, Ramirez pitched three scoreless innings in three appearances for New York. However, he hasn’t appeared in a game since July 27th, so he’s probably the most expendable part of the bullpen at this time.