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05/23/09 1:10 AM ET
Francisco quickly back in action
Rangers closer nails down save in return from DL
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Rangers closer Frank Francisco came off the disabled list on Friday and came out firing. There were no signs of rust or any other ill effects from not having pitched in 15 days. Instead, he was throwing 97 mph with his final pitch to preserve the Rangers' 6-5 victory over the Astros on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. "I just went out there and pounded the strike zone," Francisco said. "I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I've got seven guys behind me and I was just trying to throw my pitch." Francisco was activated before the game to replace Vicente Padilla, who is on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder. Francisco had also been sidelined with a strained right shoulder and hadn't pitched since earning his ninth save on May 6 against Oakland. But the Rangers were still willing to put him in a save situation right away, calling on him after Nelson Cruz had gone deep against Astros reliever LaTroy Hawkins in the top of the 10th to give them a 6-5 lead. "You have mixed emotions," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "You'd like to give a guy a break right away, but that's what separates guys with a closer's mentality. He assumes the responsibility and shows who he is." Francisco returned to action by striking out Michael Bourn to start the inning. Strike one was a 95-mph fastball. Strike two was at 96. Strike three was at 97. "He certainly didn't look like he missed any time to me," manager Ron Washington said. Francisco then retired pinch-hitter Darin Erstad on a grounder to shortstop. Lance Berkman singled to right, but Francisco struck out Jason Michaels with a 97-mph fastball to end the game. Francisco is now 10-for-10 in save opportunities this year. He has not been scored upon in 15 2/3 innings over 15 games. He has allowed eight hits, he has walked four and he has struck out 15. He is back in his role. "It doesn't feel like I missed two weeks," Francisco said. "I worked the whole time I was out. I never stopped working. I threw a couple of bullpens and faced some hitters in a simulated game. It was very much the same out there."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.