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Frank Francisco, Johan Santana still a long way from game action

Mets reliever Frank Francisco during a spring training

Mets reliever Frank Francisco during a spring training workout at Tradition Field. (Feb. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Frank Francisco threw his third bullpen session in the last six days Saturday and mixed in curveballs for the first time.

Johan Santana played catch for the second straight day and actually got on a mound -- but to practice fielding comebackers, not pitch.

Those were the baby steps to health that the Mets' highest-paid pitchers took Saturday.

Santana, who will make $31 million this year, is working his way back from left shoulder weakness.

Francisco, who is due $6.5 million, said he isn't completely over the right elbow inflammation that has stunted his spring training.

"It's not like sharp pain, but I feel like it's not 100 percent yet," Francisco said. "It only happens when I try to push more than what I have. Last time I was throwing 70 percent, maybe. I feel soreness. Today, I went more than 70, but I feel the same. I feel like I'm improving."

The Mets are not holding the closer's role for Francisco. Regardless of when he returns, Bobby Parnell is slated to pitch the ninth inning.

Francisco said he needs to throw two more bullpen sessions and break out his split-fingered fastball before he begins pitching to hitters.

When asked what the best-case date for his return is, Francisco said, "I don't know. No idea. But if everything keeps going the way it's going right now, I think that I'll be out there soon."


Extra bases

Shaun Marcum allowed two runs in four innings as the Mets lost to the Marlins, 4-2. Marcum allowed five hits and one walk with no strikeouts . . . Jeurys Familia walked three and allowed two hits and a run with two strikeouts in 11/3 innings. He walked his final batter, Chone Figgins, on the 17th pitch of the at-bat in the ninth inning.

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