For a few minutes Tuesday afternoon, Frank Francisco was still harboring false hope that the closer job was his to lose, even if lingering elbow inflammation made him easy pickings.

"It’s always going to be a competition," Francisco said. "All those guys – seventh inning, eighth inning – they want to be the closer."

It sounds as if one of those men – Bobby Parnell – already has wrested the job away from Francisco.

"Right now, Frankie Francisco is not going to be able to throw for a while," Mets manager Terry Collins said during a Tuesday afternoon radio appearance with Mike Francesa on WFAN. "His elbow is still swelled up from the surgery. And this is between you and me right now – I haven’t talked to anybody else – but [today] I’m going to go to Bobby Parnell and tell him he’s going to be the guy to pitch the ninth inning."

The bulletin came less than an hour after Collins told a group of reporters that they had set up target dates for Francisco this spring.

"If he meets those dates, I think he’ll be on track," Collins said. "If he doesn’t, we’ll have to look in another direction."

But Collins doesn’t appear to be waiting. He will turn to Parnell, a 28-year-old right-hander who has held down this role on other occasions with very limited success. He did close 2012 with a flourish. Parnell did not allow a run during his final 11 relief appearances.

Francisco had bone chips removed from his right elbow in December. He said he doesn’t know when he will resume playing catch. Asked if he was at 100 percent, Francisco joked that he was at zero.