NEW YORK -- Less than a day after casting doubt over Frank Francisco's ninth-inning duties, Mets manager Terry Collins reaffirmed his loyalty to the closer. Francisco will remain in his current role unless -- or until -- he proves consistently incapable of handling it.
"We never know what's going to happen, but I think he's doing the right thing," Francisco said. "I believe. First, I believe in God. And then I believe in me."
Collins said he found evidence of Francisco possibly tipping his pitches, which -- combined with umpire Todd Tichenor's small strike zone Sunday -- has contributed to the right-hander's recent struggles. The manager addressed that issue with Francisco during a meeting Monday afternoon.
"He wants me to put zeros on the scoreboard every time I go out there," Francisco said. "That's what he wants me to do."
Collins is not extending his closer infinite rope; he and his staff have already considered proceeding with a closer-by-committee system that would have included right-handers Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell and lefty Tim Byrdak. But the Mets ultimately opted to stick with Francisco, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal last winter primarily to pitch the ninth inning.
"This guy has a history of closing," Collins said. "We brought him here for a reason. We talked about doing a couple things different today, and we'll see what the outcome is."
Though Francisco began the season strong, shoving aside any concerns about the balky left knee that bothered him toward the end of Spring Training, he now has two blown saves and has taken two losses over his last six save opportunities. His ERA since April 18 stands at 12.10, raising his season mark to 8.56. He has walked seven batters over his last 9 2/3 innings, with the league hitting .378 against him over that span.
Francisco may well have hit his nadir Sunday, when he served up a leadoff triple to Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, walked John Buck on a series of borderline pitches -- replays indicated that two of them were strikes -- and gave up a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs. After Collins removed him from the game, Francisco approached Tichenor, yelled at the umpire and was ejected from the game.
Afterward, Collins indicated that he was considering removing Francisco from the closer's role. But the manager changed his tune Monday, saying instead that "patience may prevail."
"What you end up doing is experimenting, and I'm not into experimenting," Collins said. "It's a juggling act. You've got to really wring the rag dry."