NEW YORK -- Despite an ugly spring for several Mets relievers, manager Terry Collins made his bullpen hierarchy clear heading into the first game of the regular season. Frank Francisco will close. Jon Rauch will set him up. And the other Mets pitchers will fall in line behind them.
Heading into the spring, Francisco appeared to be the closer, Rauch the setup man, Ramon Ramirez the seventh-inning specialist and Bobby Parnell a bullpen candidate. But Between a bout of left knee soreness for Francisco, a poor Grapefruit League showing for Rauch and an electric spring for Parnell, there was some talk late in camp that roles could change.
Collins squelched that chatter Thursday.
"We put this bullpen together this winter for a purpose," the manager said. "Frankie Francisco's going to pitch the ninth inning if we have a lead. To get to him, Jon Rauch. That's why he's here. You can't get caught up in Spring Training statistics. Veteran guys a lot of times in Spring Training just try to get themselves ready. They're not motivated to do anything except get their arms in shape."
Whether due to a lack of motivation, adrenaline or anything else, Francisco posted a 5.54 ERA in 13 spring innings, while Rauch compiled a 7.94 mark and Ramirez clocked in at 5.25. Parnell, meanwhile, did not allow a run over 12 1/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking two.
Those numbers did little to sway Collins, whose bullpen ranked 28th in ERA last season. Largely because of that, the Mets acquired Francisco, Rauch and Ramirez over the winter in two free-agent signings and a trade.
"They've got track records," Collins said. "We think we're better, and we'll start to find out as of today."