© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

05/20/09 6:53 PM ET

Francisco may return for Houston series

Closer throws with no pain in simulated game Wednesday

DETROIT -- Rangers closer Frank Francisco threw 20 pain-free pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday at Comerica Park.

Barring an unexpected setback, he's slated to return from the 15-day disabled list for Friday's three-game series opener in Houston.

"He did great," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He threw all his pitches, had good velocity, the split had depth to it, the breaking ball was sharp. He was very happy with the results, and I was very happy that he was happy."

Francisco, who ranks third in the Majors with nine saves, has not pitched in a game since May 6 due to right biceps tendinitis.

On Wednesday, the right-hander faced two hitters -- catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and center fielder Josh Hamilton -- with a large group of Rangers players and coaches surrounding the batting cage.

"He looked good," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "When you're coming off an injury, per se, it's all about how you bounce back."

Francisco threw a side session from 120 feet on Saturday. He felt no pain, liked his location, but reported unusually decreased zip on his fastball. Texas responded by placing him on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 7.

The Rangers said the zip returned Wednesday afternoon.

"His velocity looked good," said Hamilton, who is still day-to-day with a groin injury. "It had late life, when it comes out of his hand and then -- boom! [He] had his curveball working. ... That's the first time I ever faced him. I'm usually behind him in the outfield, but he looked good."

Francisco has gone 9-for-9 in save opportunities this season. He has not allowed an earned run in 14 2/3 innings.

His 14 unblemished appearances mark the longest scoreless stretch to begin a season in club history.

Scott McNeish is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.