Former Mets Closer is Given a Special Role

February 26, 2009

When you look up the meaning of the word ambassador it will tell you that it is an official envoy appointed for a special and often temporary assignment. For the next six weeks, the Mets have invited former left-handed pitcher John Franco to act as their special envoy to the Mets pitchers and specifically, left-hander Pedro Feliciano. Franco is interested in teaching Feliciano his signature pitch, the changeup.

Franco, 48, and a native of Brooklyn, has been retired from the game since 2005. In his twenty-one major league seasons, fourteen with the Mets, he earned 424 saves, has appeared in 1,119 games, and holds a 2.89 career ERA.

“I’m glad to be back,” Franco recently told WFAN’s Eddie Coleman.

In 2002 at age 42, the successful closer was still with the club when he underwent an MRI that revealed an avulsion of the medial collateral ligaments and flexor tendon from his elbow. Meaning quite frankly, it was time to hang it up. The decision for Franco was either find another line of work or undergo “Tommy John” surgery to repair his left elbow. Franco chose the latter and the organization could not help but honor his request since he gave them so many years of quality service.

He came back during the 2003 season and returned the following year. At the conclusion of the 2004 season, the Mets decided it was in their best interest to part ways with the St. John’s University alum. Franco finished out his final season in 2005 with the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, after his return from major surgery he was only a shell of himself. He was unable to regain the form that brought him to the forefront of his career.

During those great playoff runs of the late nineties which culminated with the Subway Series of 2000 against the Yankees, Franco took on the responsibility as one of the team’s leaders. When he was asked who he thought could lead this current team, he mentioned third baseman David Wright and shortstop Jose Reyes. “They’re the face of the organization,” Franco said. “David is starting to feel his oats here. He’s the type of guy who could lead by example.”

Regarding Mets manager Jerry Manuel, Franco said he considered Manuel a straight-shooter, a real player’s manager. When Coleman asked him if he was interested in a career in coaching with his former team, Franco replied, “If they give me an opportunity to take some baby steps, do things on a part-time basis, and work at my own pace.” Franco seemed hesitant due to the fact that he felt it was still important for him to be there for his family. “I still want to be around for them and watch my son’s high school games,” he added.

Franco went on to mention that he was looking forward to seeing Mets pitcher, Johan Santana. “I always have a special thing for left-handers,” he said. “Maybe I can learn something from him.”

He reinforced the notion that the pitchers the Mets brought in will definitely help the bullpen this year. “It will make the game shorter,” he said. “When you have those two big guys at the end of the game…I think it’s going to be interesting.”

Perhaps, having Franco back in the fold will bring the Mets some added karma going into the season.

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