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02/27/10 3:34 PM EST

Frankie, Escobar dealing with setbacks

Closer's pink eye worsening; reliever may be out for opener

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The projected back end of the Mets' bullpen continued to ail on Saturday.

Francisco Rodriguez said he's feeling no better from pink eye and will now have to go visit a local doctor. More significantly, manager Jerry Manuel said he doesn't think Kelvim Escobar's beleaguered shoulder will allow him to be the team's eighth-inning man by Opening Day.

Escobar, who has been limited to just one Major League appearance in the past two years because of right shoulder woes, said he's been playing catch every other day, but he added that there's still no timetable for when he'll return to the mound, and he talked about how the Mets "want to take it easy with me."

Manuel feels Escobar will need to take it easy to the point where he won't be ready to contribute in any capacity -- setup role or not -- by the start of the season.

"I don't see it right now," Manuel said. "Hopefully, I'm wrong, but that I don't see."

"They don't want to rush me back, because I've already had a couple of setbacks trying to rush myself," Escobar added. "This time, I want to do things right and make sure."

Escobar has been effective as a starter -- posting a 3.51 ERA while making a combined 60 starts from 2006-07 -- and had a 38-save season with the Blue Jays in '02.

When the Mets signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million contract in December, the hope was that he'd be the team's eighth-inning man. But that doesn't seem like a reality at this point -- at least, not early on.

"We felt -- at least, I felt -- when he was acquired that was kind of the mind-set moving forward that, 'Hey, this is a guy that has done some of both, and if he's healthy, he would've been a tremendous, tremendous fit for us,' and we felt like we kind of had [the eighth inning] covered," Manuel said about the veteran, who is 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA in 411 games (202 starts) in his 12-year career. "But now with the injury situation, we have to have someone else step up and handle that role."

With Escobar not expected to be ready, the list of candidates for the setup role -- seen as the most intriguing competition in Mets camp -- seemingly includes Bobby Parnell, Sean Green, Fernando Nieve and Ryota Igarashi.

Perhaps the free-agent market is also an option, as veteran lefty Joe Beimel told The Denver Post on Friday that he's weighing an offer from the Mets -- though it seems like he may be holding out for something more lucrative.

Igarashi, a 30-year-old Japanese right-hander, has impressed in the early workouts at Tradition Field, and he may have the early lead in that race thanks to a nice fastball and split.

"He has a good feel for a lot of things," Manuel said after Saturday's workout. "I think the key will be how well he commands those pitches."

Rodriguez, sent home early from Mets camp on Thursday because the club was concerned he'd spread the condition, said he's been dealing with pink eye for a week to 10 days since he left his native Venezuela. It started with his left eye, then it moved to his right, and now he's affected by it in both eyes.

"When I first woke up like that, I thought it was allergies," said Rodriguez, who isn't expected to work out with the Mets on Sunday, either. "I just kept rubbing it."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.