a 2009 Texas Rangers: 2009 Texas Rangers closer Franf Francisco having a great season
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FRANKIE TO THE RESCUE

Texas really did have a decision to make about their closer in spring training. C. J. Wilson saved 24 games in 2008 in 28 opportunities, before being shut down for the last two months of the year, with bone chips in his elbow that were removed in August. His 24 saves ranked 10 th in the American League, not bad for two-thirds of a season. Wilson had claimed the closer’s job in 2007 finishing with 12 saves, so he was a viable closer candidate.

In Wilson’s absence, Frank Francisco finished 2008 strong, recording five saves in his last five opportunities. He was unscored upon in the final 11 appearances he tossed last season, and finished with a 3.13 ERA, the best of any Ranger reliever. This year, he was so good in spring training, that he made the decision easy for Ranger management. He started 2009 as the closer with Wilson as the eighth inning setup man.

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This year, Francisco’s dominance continues. He has and uses three pitches, with a curve and split-finger to go with his fastball that often zooms into the upper 90’s. In his first 10 appearances this season, he has recorded six saves in six opportunities. That save total leads the American League and is just two behind the Major League leader, Heath Bell. Francisco hasn’t bothered to allow a run and has yielded just five hits and a walk in 10.2 innings. Zach Grienke received notoriety earlier this season for his scoreless inning streak that ran into the 30’s dating back to last year. That streak unfortunately ended with an unearned run. Quietly though, Francisco is sneaking up on a similar run, having tossed 23.1 scoreless innings since last August 22. Over that span, he’s 2-0 with 11 saves in 11 save opportunities.

 

 

 

 



 

 

Durability is always a question with closers, but so far he’s answered the bell. He has made appearances in consecutive games three times, once recording four saves in five days. The rest of the Texas bullpen has been really bad so far this year, so Francisco will now be called upon to get four- or even five-out saves. He has been efficient with his pitches, needing just six to record a save earlier this week. His average pitches per inning are 13.4 so far this year, down from 15.9 last September when he took over as the Rangers’ closer. That’s a very good sign if the Rangers continue to use him in the eighth inning.

 

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Francisco was very good in his rookie season of 2004. His ERA was 3.33, and he was already considered to have “closer stuff” with his dominant fastball. His career took some wrong turns after 2004 though. He lost almost two seasons to Tommy John surgery on his elbow. After surgery, he had difficulty regaining the effectiveness of his split-fingered pitch. In 2009 though, the tall Dominican looks poised to take his place as one of the premier closers in the game.

By: Richard W. Humphrey
MLBcenter.com Texas Rangers Correspondent


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