Frank Francisco returned to the Mets yesterday, but wasn't making any promises regarding his health.

The colorful closer, who was activated from the disabled list before the Mets' 3-1 loss to the Padres at Petco Park, said the left oblique soreness that originally sidelined him on June 24 has subsided. But he admitted to recently dealing with a new problem: stiffness in the right latissimus dorsi muscle of his back.

"It's something that I hope goes away pitching," Francisco said. "I'm going to pitch through it and hope it goes away."

The Mets, desperate for bullpen help, will take a chance on Francisco, who said he tore his latissimus dorsi in 2000 and also sustained an injury to the muscle two years ago.

General manager Sandy Alderson laughed when he was asked about Francisco's readiness.