PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Frank Francisco understands that being ready for Opening Day may no longer be a realistic goal. Instead, Francisco is trying to prepare himself for something at least resembling a full, healthy summer.
"I just want to be ready for the season," Francisco said Saturday, after throwing off a mound for the third time this spring. "Whenever I go up there, stay up there. I don't want to rush it and come back down here. I'd rather take one or two days extra and be sure that I'm going to be up there as soon as possible for the season, rather than rush and blow it."
Francisco's mound work was delayed a month this spring due to inflammation in his pitching elbow, a byproduct of the surgery he underwent this winter to remove a bone spur. He first stepped on the mound last weekend, throwing 20 pitches at less than the traditional 60 feet, six inches.
Saturday marked the first time Francisco had thrown a full bullpen session, delivering 31 pitches -- including breaking balls -- off a mound. But he estimated that he only did so at around 70-percent effort, still feeling "a sting" in his arm when he pitches. Francisco plans to take two days off, then throw another bullpen session Tuesday at around 80 percent effort. If all goes well, he will appear in games before the end of spring.
"I feel like every time I throw off the mound, the next time out I can give a little more effort and I feel less soreness," Francisco said.
Assuming Francisco is not ready to pitch on Opening Day, Bobby Parnell will take over as closer.
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.