Frank Francisco on track to return from disabled list Monday

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Frank Francisco’s rehab assignment was delayed earlier this week due to a right knee injury, but he’s now on track to rejoin the Mets when they begin a three-game series Monday in San Francisco.

According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Francisco allowed one hit while throwing 21 pitches in a scoreless inning yesterday in his second rehab appearance with Double-A Binghamton. It’s a good sign, as he was a little rusty in his first appearance Wednesday, where he gave up one run on three hits and a walk over two-thirds of an inning. He’s expected to make his third appearance today, which should clear the way for his activation.

Francisco has been on the disabled list since June 23 with a strained left oblique. He had a minor setback with the oblique earlier this month and required a cortisone shot to relieve discomfort in his right knee earlier this week.

Francisco, 32, has compiled a 4.97 ERA and 31/14 K/BB ratio over 29 innings this season while converting 18 out of 21 save opportunities. Bobby Parnell is currently serving as the closer, but he should move back into a set-up role up Francisco’s return.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.