Francisco nearing return to Rangers

Francisco nearing return to Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Reliever Frank Francisco could be just a few days away from rejoining the Rangers. It could take a little longer before he resumes his role as the Rangers closer.

"We're going to ease him back in," Rangers manager Ron Washington said before Wednesday's game with the Houston Astros. "We're not going to just drop him back in there. But if he's healthy, he'll eventually get back in there."

Francisco, on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to pitch one inning on a medical rehabilitation assignment for Double-A Frisco on Thursday night. If that goes well, he could join the Rangers this weekend in San Francisco.

"That will be determined by how it goes," Washington said. "We expect one would be enough. Frank is confident. He's kept his body and arm in shape, he just needs to face hitters. The key is getting in there and feeling good. If he does, everything will be fine."

The Rangers don't need to rush Francisco back as the closer. C.J. Wilson has handled the role well while Francisco has been sidelined. Wilson went into Wednesday night's game with a 1.06 ERA in his past 18 games and was 6-for-7 in save opportunities. Opponents were hitting .207 off him.

"It's fun," Wilson said about returning to his old role. "You're always on alert even though you always don't get to work. It's the same as the eighth inning, but it's just fun being out there when everybody is high-fiving."

Wilson was the Rangers' closer last year and was 24-for-28 but with a 6.02 ERA before undergoing elbow surgery at the beginning of August that sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Eddie Guardado took over but was traded to the Twins on Aug. 25.

That's when Francisco took over as the closer, and in 30 appearances since that point, he is 2-1 with a 0.29 ERA and 17-for-17 in save opportunities. That's why he'll eventually be back as the Rangers' closer at some point, if not right away. Wilson understands that.

"I'm just worried about Frankie being healthy for his own sake," Wilson said. "I can go pitch and do my thing in any role. I can't control that. I learned that in Spring Training. There's nothing I can do except help my team win by doing my job. That's what I'm trying to do. Winning is more fun. It makes driving to the ballpark a lot more fun."

The Rangers did make one move in the bullpen on Wednesday. They sent Warner Madrigal back to Triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Matthew Harrison, who was activated off the disabled list. Doug Mathis and Guillermo Moscoso remain with the Rangers as middle/long relievers.

"We need some length and we know Moscoso and Mathis give us length," Washington said. "We want to make sure Madrigal stays on regular work and continues to throw."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.