NEW YORK -- Less than a day after casting doubt over Frank Francisco's ninth-inning duties, Mets manager Terry Collins reaffirmed his loyalty to the closer. Francisco will remain in his current role unless -- or until -- he proves consistently incapable of handling it.

"We never know what's going to happen, but I think he's doing the right thing," Francisco said. "I believe. First, I believe in God. And then I believe in me."

Collins said he found evidence of Francisco possibly tipping his pitches, which -- combined with umpire Todd Tichenor's small strike zone Sunday -- has contributed to the right-hander's recent struggles. The manager addressed that issue with Francisco during a meeting Monday afternoon.

"He wants me to put zeros on the scoreboard every time I go out there," Francisco said. "That's what he wants me to do."

Collins is not extending his closer infinite rope; he and his staff have already considered proceeding with a closer-by-committee system that would have included right-handers Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell and lefty Tim Byrdak. But the Mets ultimately opted to stick with Francisco, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal last winter primarily to pitch the ninth inning.

"This guy has a history of closing," Collins said. "We brought him here for a reason. We talked about doing a couple things different today, and we'll see what the outcome is."

Though Francisco began the season strong, shoving aside any concerns about the balky left knee that bothered him toward the end of Spring Training, he now has two blown saves and has taken two losses over his last six save opportunities. His ERA since April 18 stands at 12.10, raising his season mark to 8.56. He has walked seven batters over his last 9 2/3 innings, with the league hitting .378 against him over that span.

Francisco may well have hit his nadir Sunday, when he served up a leadoff triple to Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, walked John Buck on a series of borderline pitches -- replays indicated that two of them were strikes -- and gave up a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs. After Collins removed him from the game, Francisco approached Tichenor, yelled at the umpire and was ejected from the game.

Afterward, Collins indicated that he was considering removing Francisco from the closer's role. But the manager changed his tune Monday, saying instead that "patience may prevail."

"What you end up doing is experimenting, and I'm not into experimenting," Collins said. "It's a juggling act. You've got to really wring the rag dry."

Bay eyes rehab in Florida after examination

NEW YORK -- Jason Bay's road back from the disabled list began Monday at Citi Field, when a team doctor examined the outfielder and cleared him to begin baseball activities.

That process will begin Tuesday, though Bay is not yet sure of the specific program. All he knew Monday evening was that he will begin his baseball activities at Citi Field this week, before continuing his rehab in Port St. Lucie, Fla., over the weekend.

"It's just basically ramping up," Bay said. "Everything was kind of tolerable -- running, hitting, everything. It's just kind of a progression."

Bay has done little more than ride a stationary bike and elliptical machine since fracturing a left rib late last month. Should his body take well to baseball activities, he could rejoin the Mets as soon as late May.

"When I first did it, everything bothered me," Bay said, estimating that his rib is now 80 percent healed. "Now, all the day-to-day stuff doesn't bother me."

Bay is now three weeks removed from his injury, which he suffered in diving pursuit of a ball on April 23. Doctors gave him an initial estimate of a three-to-six-week recovery.

"I can't just jump into the cage, take hacks and then be on the field," Bay said. "There's a ramping up that goes with it, so I just want to start that. And if there are things along the way that bother me, I'll slow down a bit."

In the days prior to landing on the disabled list, Bay had been one of the team's top offensive threats, batting .290 with three home runs and a .613 slugging percentage over his final nine games.

Worth noting

• The Mets are "quietly preparing" a long-term contract offer for David Wright, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, though that may not come any time soon. Wright said in Spring Training that he would not address his contract status during the season, and no Mets official has commented on the report. The team holds a $16 million option on Wright's contract for 2013.

• Catcher Rob Johnson was nursing a sore left thumb Monday, after taking a foul tip off the digit during Sunday's game. The Mets are already playing without starting catcher Josh Thole, who suffered a concussion last week in Philadelphia and has been resting at his home since.

• First baseman Ike Davis was back in the starting lineup Monday, one day after sitting out with flu-like symptoms. Davis believes his illness may have been due to food poisoning, and not the flu bug that has been going around the Mets' clubhouse in recent weeks.