SAN DIEGO -- One reliever returns, another hits the disabled list. And neither is completely healthy.
Such is the current state of New York's bullpen, which received an apparent boost Friday when closer Frank Francisco returned from the DL. But how much of a boost remains to be seen. Sidelined since June 23 with a left oblique strain, Francisco no sooner returned than he complained of soreness in his right lat muscle.
Then, to make room for Francisco, the Mets placed Tim Byrdak on the DL with soreness in his left shoulder.
In any case, the Mets have their closer again, following a five-week recovery from an injury that was supposed to take two weeks to heal. In addition to suffering multiple setbacks with his oblique, Francisco received an injection in his knee midway through his rehab and now is dealing with lat soreness.
Asked if he was ready to return, Francisco said simply: "Let's see tonight. We'll go on the field and see."
"It's something that I hope goes away pitching," Francisco continued, noting that he previously tore his lat in 2010. "I'm going to pitch through it and hope it goes away."
If healthy, Francisco boasts the credentials to give the bullpen a significant boost. Though he entered Friday's play sporting a 4.97 season ERA, Francisco converted 10 of his last 11 save opportunities with a 1.76 mark before going on the DL. In his final four rehab appearances with Double-A Binghamton, Francisco fired four scoreless innings with three hits, three strikeouts and no walks.
But the Mets may have trouble bridging the gap to Francisco without Byrdak, their primary left-handed specialist. Byrdak, who will receive an MRI Monday in New York, said he has been feeling discomfort in his shoulder since July 26. Though he does not believe the injury will take two weeks to heal, Byrdak saw Francisco's return as an opportunity to receive some extra rest.
"Knowing the roster move, I didn't want to leave [manager] Terry [Collins] a man short," Byrdak said. "The best position to take was to go ahead and go on the DL, give it some time to calm down."