Francisco will not lose job despite injury

Francisco will not lose job despite injury

Francisco will not lose job despite injury
TAMPA, Fla. -- Veteran reliever Frank Francisco is not in danger of losing his closer's job despite having to open the season on the disabled list.

Francisco is currently suffering from soreness in his right pectoral muscle and inflammation in his right biceps muscle. The 31-year-old will be placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to Tuesday and won't be eligible to return until at least April 6.

"We traded for him to be our closer," manager John Farrell said. "You never say that an injury takes a guy out of the mix. That's not fair to the individual, and once he regains that strength and that stamina, we expect him to be closing games out for us."

Francisco has made just two appearances this spring because of the nagging injury. He underwent an MRI on Friday, which didn't reveal any structural damage, but after experiencing continued discomfort during a bullpen session the following day, he was sent for a second opinion.

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Renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews examined the arm and pectoral muscle in Birmingham, Ala., and confirmed the initial report. Farrell is optimistic that diagnosis will remove any doubt about the severity of Francisco's injury.

"Frankie came away from the second opinion with some confidence, and more importantly, some peace of mind that might allow him to get past the physical ailments that have limited him so far," Farrell said. "That's probably as important as anything in this whole process, is that he believes it's inflammation and there's nothing structurally [wrong] there.

"If there is varying levels of discomfort going forward, he knows he can push through it without any real danger."

Right-hander Jon Rauch will open the season as Toronto's temporary closer. Rauch gained experience in that role last season in Minnesota, where he went 3-1 with a 3.12 ERA and 21 saves in 25 opportunities.

Rauch isn't the same type of hard thrower that Francisco is, but Farrell believes Rauch has an appropriate repertoire of pitches that will lead to success. Farrell used former closers Bob Wickman and Doug Jones as prime examples of that mentality.

"I think the assumption is to have a closer, you've got to have a guy that's a mid-90s type of velocity, who strikes everybody out, or he snorts and sniffles and blows fire on the mound," Farrell said. "There's a number of guys that you can quickly point to that weren't overpowering with pure stuff, but they pitched and changed speeds at a critical part in the game. More importantly, those guys threw strikes."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.