John Franco was designated for assignment by the Astros yesterday, removing him from the 40-man roster and giving the team 10 days to decide what to do with the NL's career leader in saves.

Houston can either trade Franco, release him or send the 44-year-old left-hander to the minors.

The former Reds and Mets closer was 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in 31 games with Houston. He is second behind Lee Smith on the career saves list with 424, the most for a left-hander.

The move on Franco was done to make room for RHP Ezequiel Astacio, who was recalled from Class AAA Round Rock to start the second game of yesterday's doubleheader against the Reds.

* UP-AND-DOWN DAY: On Carlos Beltran Bobblehead Day in New York, the man himself doubled in the first and made a diving catch in the second. But he failed to run out a weak popup in the third, and 1B Carlos Delgado alertly let the ball drop so he could start a 3-6-3 double play.

Beltran was booed by the crowd of 41,290 -- then cheered after his two-run double with two outs in the fifth gave the Mets a 3-1 lead.

* UMPIRE HURT: Jim Joyce sprained his right knee covering a play at the plate in the first inning of the Cardinals-Rockies game in St. Louis and was helped off the field.

Joyce, the first base umpire, was covering home plate when he apparently slipped on a bat. Marty Foster, the home plate umpire, had gone to third when third base umpire Dana DeMuth went out to left field to follow a double by Larry Walker.

Joyce was the fourth umpire to leave Busch Stadium during a game this season.

-- From News Services

Hot dog champion Takeru Kobayashi eats it up after his ceremonial first pitch at Shea.