Continuing the rehabilitate his shoulder after missing the entire 2013 season, the Baltimore Orioles have presented a plan to Johan Santana that would have him taking a spot in their starting rotation by mid-June. The twelve year veteran would make three more starts in the minor leagues before potentially joining the organization’s Major League roster on June 18 or 19.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter revealed specifics to the plan to reporters on Thursday. Santana would make one more start at extended spring training, a start at Triple-A Norfolk, and a final start with Double-A Bowie on June 13. He’d likely make his Orioles debut either Wednesday the 18th, at Tampa Bay, or Friday the 20th at New York (the team has a scheduled off day on the 19th).
“Ideally, the last outing would be six innings if the other club would cooperate,” Showalter told reporters. “If these three options work out, he’d be an option for us. It’s on thing being able to get through it, it’s another thing to have people evaluate whether it will work up here.”
Santana’s original deal with the Orioles contains an opt-out clause that would allow him to become a free agent on Friday if he so desired. Baltimore is hoping that by laying out this plan they can convince him to forego that option.
Of course, two large questions remain.
The first is who Santana would replace in the Orioles rotation. The team has seen inconsistent performances from all five of their starters on the season to date. Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez have seen their share of struggles this season, but also have the most experience of anyone else in the rotation. Neither would seem like an obvious candidate to step back into a bullpen role. Bud Norris’ repertoire does profile well as a reliever and he was even briefly rumored to be a potential option as closer before the season began, but he’s arguably been the most consistent option for the team this season.
The second question ties back to Santana. Shoulder surgery forced him to miss all of the 2013 season. He’d also missed the 2011 campaign following a similar procedure. Various reports have suggested that Santana’s fastball has topped out around 87 MPH at extended spring training. The diminished velocity coupled with his injury history suggest that he may not be effective over extended stretches, or would at least find himself on a limited pitch count. Ultimately his best role might be in the bullpen, rather than pushing someone else there.