CLEVELAND - Mets reliever Frank Francisco called it a "little amateur" to assume that his lengthy rehab from elbow surgery was an attempt to keep collecting his hefty paycheck without having to work for it.
"There's been a lot of talking," said Francisco, the winning pitcher in his first outing in nearly a year, a 2-1 victory over the Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field. "There's nothing I can do to change people's minds."
Francisco's rehab from surgery to remove spurs from his elbow last December has been a source of contention for months.
The Mets grew frustrated with Francisco's numerous false starts, all the while insisting that there was no medical reason for the pitcher's delays. The situation stoked the perception that Francisco remained at the team's complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., content to keep cashing checks without having to work for them.
But Francisco offered a different version, revealing Sunday that doctors found a tear in his pronator muscle and scarring in his flexor tendon.
"The only way I'm going to make a living is pitching," said Francisco, 33, who will be a free agent after making $6.5 million this season. "If I don't pitch, how am I going to make a living? How am I going to get a job next year?"
Though Mets starter Daisuke Matsuzaka did not factor in the decision, he allowed only one run in 52/3 innings, his best start as a member of the Mets. It came against the organization that released him last month.
Justin Turner hit a solo homer and Eric Young Jr. doubled home the go-ahead run with two outs in the ninth to help the Mets salvage a 4-5 road trip. But none of it happens without Francisco, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning with the score tied at 1 by inducing a double-play grounder from Asdrubal Cabrera.
Bone spurs sidelined Francisco down the stretch last season and eventually required surgery in December. Family issues knocked him off track early in his rehab, setting him on a course for a prolonged comeback. Neither he nor the Mets were pleased at the pace of his progress, and a hint of that frustration was apparent Sunday.
"It was tough," Francisco said. "There was a lot of frustration on both sides."
Earlier in the day, manager Terry Collins repeated a common refrain all throughout Francisco's starts and stops during his rehab process.
"Medically, there's no answer to it," the manager said.
Yet Francisco challenged that notion. He relayed an incident two months ago when he went for a cortisone shot and was surprised that the Mets also wanted him to begin platelet-rich plasma therapy, which is designed to help hasten the healing process.
"If I went for a cortisone shot, why give me PRP if nothing is wrong with my arm?" said Francisco, who has since been relieved of periodic shooting pain in his elbow.
Indeed, there's little Francisco can do in the final weeks of the season to make his two-year, $12-million contract anything but a bust for the Mets. He posted a 5.53 ERA last season as the Mets' closer before losing the role to Bobby Parnell.
He even expressed an interest in getting another chance with the Mets "because I was here the whole time, working hard to be with a team and do what I'm supposed to do, and that didn't happen.
"I feel like I owe it to not just the organization," Francisco said. "I feel like I owe it to myself, to the fans, to everybody."
Notes & quotes: Matt Harvey (partially torn right elbow ligament) will have a follow-up exam this week. He has yet to decide on surgery that would sideline him for the 2014 season . . . Shortstop Ruben Tejada is expected to be called up shortly . . . Outfielder Mike Baxter, righthander Aaron Harang and catcher Juan Centeno will join the Mets Monday.
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