Fully recovered after a series of injuries cost him significant time over the past two seasons, Johan Santana will be held back a few weeks before the New York Mets allow him to make his first start of Spring Training. The decision is not due to another injury, according to quotes from GM Sandy Alderson passed along by Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, but rather an effort to let Santana build up some more arm strength before he’s thrust into game action.
There’s no structural issue. It’s just a matter of building up strength. So he’ll be long tossing before he gets back on the mound. We expect that his schedule will have been delayed somewhat.
Santana underwent surgery following the 2010 season to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder and would miss the entire 2011 season. He’d return last year, making 21 starts and pitching 117.0 innings for the Mets while posting a 6-9 record, 4.85 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, and 8.5 K/9. He wasn’t “vintage Santana”, but he was still a welcome sight on the mound at Citi Field for a fanbase longing to see a winning team once again. Santana’s season did include the franchise’s first no-hitter, on June 1st against the St. Louis Cardinals, but he’d have his year cut short by inflammation in his lower back that would lead the team to shut him down in mid-August.
The 33 year old left-hander had been originally expected to make his first start next weekend, but the team has apparently moved that target date back about two weeks. There don’t appear to be any plans or expectations that Santana will need to start the season on the DL, though the team wouldn’t rule out the possibility. Manager Terry Collins reportedly noticed a “lack of arm strength” during Santana’s past two bullpen sessions and the team’s medical staff was consulted before any decisions were made.
Santana will reach free agency at the end of the season in all likelihood, as the team will likely pay a $5.5 Million buyout of a vesting option. He’ll earn $25.5 Million this season, the final year of a six year contract the team signed him to after acquiring him from the Minnesota Twins in 2008.
Delaying the start to his Spring Training regimen certainly can’t hurt a player in Santana’s position. Given his recent injury history, Santana has to be hoping for an injury-free 2013 season in an effort to regain some value as he hits the open market. He could put himself in line for a three or four year deal if he’s able to put forth a solid season. Presumably such an offer won’t be coming from the Mets, however, as the team appears inclined to build from their internal pitching depth and re-signing Santana just simply might not be in the budget. New York has eight starting options on their 40-man roster under the age of 26 whom they can turn to if they allow Santana to leave (Jeurys Familia, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Jeremy Hefner, Collin McHugh, Jenrry Mejia, Jonathon Niese, and Zack Wheeler).