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Friday, October 29, 2010
Frank Francisco deals with helpless feeling

By Jeff Caplan

ARLINGTON, Texas -- These are difficult days for injured reliever Frank Francisco. The Texas Rangers' dependable, eighth-inning setup man has watched these playoffs from the dugout and he’s celebrated in the clubhouse with his teammates.

But, when things unraveled against the scrappy San Francisco Giants in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series for a bullpen charged with 11 earned runs, Francisco yearns to pitch and to help his team.

He hoped to be a part of the World Series roster, but during bullpen sessions in the days leading up to Wednesday morning’s deadline for manager Ron Washington to finalize the 25-man roster, it became apparent that Francisco’s arm injury – a right latissimus dorsi muscle strain -- just wouldn’t let him make the roster.

“It’s something that you can’t even explain with words,” Francisco said. “It’s a bad feeling. Sometimes I don’t want to even go out, but I know I got to go and support my teammates. But, it’s really tough.”

Francisco opened the season as the Rangers’ closer, but a rough opening week convinced Washington to promote rookie hurler Neftali Feliz, who wound up with 40 saves. Francisco worked out his problems and boasted a 6-4 record and 3.76 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings before the injury ended his season on Aug. 27.

It changed the dynamics of the bullpen, altering roles such as making Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver something of a righty-lefty late-inning combo to bridge to Feliz. Against the Giants, no one in the bullpen has fared well. He said he tries to encourage his teammates, telling them to trust their stuff.

A free agent at the end of the season, Francisco can only ponder what might have been if he’d been healthy enough to pitch in his and the franchise’s first World Series.

“We’re human. Things happen,” he said. “I don’t know if I would be able to change anything. The only thing I know is every time I go out there I leave everything I have on the mound.”