Inflammation in elbow keeping Francisco off mound

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Though Frank Francisco reported to camp punctually on Tuesday, lingering health issues may prevent him from toeing a rubber any time soon.

It's a situation that could ultimately cost him his job.

Francisco, the incumbent closer, said that his right elbow is still inflamed following the operation he underwent in December to remove a bone spur. The right-hander tried throwing last week, without success, and the training staff has since advised him to cease all activity until the inflammation subsides.

He cannot estimate when that might be.

"I don't know," Francisco said. "The trainers are going to let me know when. We're going to talk and see day by day how I feel, how I progress, and then we'll decide."

Francisco might have avoided this situation altogether had he simply undergone surgery at the end of the season, but he said that both an initial MRI and a second opinion found nothing amiss. It was not until December, when he told a doctor that he was still feeling discomfort, that he discovered the bone spur.

Even before Francisco reported to camp in poor health, the Mets appeared to be wavering about his ability to adequately perform ninth-inning duties. Though he only blew three saves in 26 chances last season, Francisco posted a 5.53 ERA and was removed from multiple other save situations.

If Francisco is not ready for Opening Day, the Mets will turn to either Bobby Parnell or Brandon Lyon, both of whom have closed out games in the past. Lyon appears to be more of a short-term patch, as the Mets still view Parnell as their closer of the future.

"I'm not really saying, 'Hey, I want to be the closer here,'" Lyon said. "That's not where I'm at. That's never been my idea as a player. I just want to go out and help the team win and let other people decide."

Ultimately, the decision will fall to manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

"Frank told me last week, 'I'll be ready,'" Collins said. "Dan and I have picked some dates that we think are going to be important so that we know he'll have the innings necessary to be ready for the season. If he meets those dates, I think he'll be on track. If he doesn't, we'll have to look in other directions."