(Long Island, N.Y.) When the New York Mets shut down Johan Santana late last August, they must have breathed a sigh of relief that their ace starter did not have any acute injury and that all parties involved came to the conclusion that it was best not to risk one at that point and time. The southpaw – who threw the first no-hitter in franchise history on June 1 – was showing signs of fatigue and also had some lower back inflammation, so it was a good strategy to rest him once it became apparent that the Mets were not ready to print playoff tickets.
General manager Sandy Alderson probably looked forward and figured that having a fully rested Santana would be easier to trade during the season once he showed that he was fully healthy and came out like gangbusters at the start of Spring Training. But Santana apparently didn’t hold up his end of the deal.
The 33-year-old with the humongous contract took it real easy the last six months and did more lounging around than he did working out or throwing. He used the offseason as one to rest and do nothing to recharge his batteries, which doesn’t sound like the worst strategy in the world if loosening up your money maker before it’s actually time to report to work is also included in that schedule.
After two unimpressive bullpen sessions, the Mets decided to shut down Santana for the time being to allow him to do what he should have been able to do on his own back home sometime in January. After coming to the conclusion that the lack of velocity is not injury-related, the Mets can only assume that it is because of a lack of stretching his arm out and getting it back to where Santana can get some speed on his pitches.
“It seems to me that it’s self-evident that he wasn’t ready to pitch at the beginning of Spring Training, since he hasn’t pitched at this point” Alderson told reporters at Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “Beyond that, characterizing were we surprised or disappointed [or] unhappy, those are reactions I’m not ready to get into. In the case of any pitcher who isn’t ready to go in Spring Training, sure there’s a little disappointment, but that’s true with anybody in any situation.”
But it becomes magnified when that somebody is your number one starter, and one that must also be on top of his game because your number two (R.A. Dickey) was traded away and not replaced with someone of the same talent level. Although he did not come right out and say it, Alderson is not happy whatsoever with Santana and his lack of preparation.
So now instead of getting some grapefruit League starts, Santana will be long tossing (first at 150 feet and then 180) and – when he’s ready to do so – throw live batting practice. These are steps that should have been taken previously and not in March and hopefully not a signal that he will miss Opening Day. Surely, the team would like for him to throw a certain number of pitches before the games count in the standings and depending on how long it takes, Santana may run out of potential starts during the exhibition games and not meet that number.
He will probably not be placed on the Disabled List, but could stay behind in Florida for extended spring training (or get a minor league start or two) before rejoining the big league club up north. Not exactly the best scenario, but far from the worst.
And these are things that can all have been avoided.