Francisco hoping to make debut Saturday

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Closer Frank Francisco aims to step on a mound on Saturday for the first time this spring. His readiness for Opening Day is not so clear.

"We never know," Francisco said. "I might give you a little surprise. I know I'm going to be OK. If I [miss] a few games, maybe five or six games, it's for my own good. I know I can go out there and rush a little bit, but I'm risking taking another step back. That's what I don't want."

Battling inflammation in his right elbow, Francisco continued his long-tossing program Thursday at distances up to 130 feet. If Francisco is not ready to pitch on Opening Day, Bobby Parnell will serve as closer.

Francisco underwent surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his elbow. He began throwing off flat ground early in February before discovering the inflammation.

"I just feel like I've got to get my strength, throw a little more maybe, get my power back," Francisco said. "I feel like I'm not loose yet, like I don't have power in my whole body. I feel like I don't have my release point yet. That takes a while."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.