Some athletes will use anything as a motivator while others simply know what it takes to get ready.
Today, pitching coach Dan Warthen tried to sell the idea Johan Santana used perceived criticism of his physical condition as the spark to get him on the mound for the first time since Feb. 19. Santana threw the day after GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t think the soon-to-be 34-year old lefty would pitch for another ten days to put his Opening Day start in jeopardy.
The Mets are trying to mix the contrasting positions Santana as the ultimate competitor who knows better than anybody what it takes to get ready and the other that he uses criticism as motivation.
Well, which is it?
Reportedly, Santana was irritated at reporters’ questioning, to which my first thought is for him to get over it as he’ll get $31 million this year regardless of how much he pitches, so answer the damn questions.
There’s no doubting Santana’s heart, but he can be sensitive.
What I especially found questionable is if the Mets thought he was ten days away from throwing, then why would they let him throw today? Who’s running the show anyway?
When a team puts it in the hands of the athlete to make medical decision, there is a likely chance of failure. Just think of Ryan Church, Mike Pelfrey, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jose Reyes and others.
Despite Santana’s sensitivity to criticism, the fact remains he’s not in pitching shape and is behind schedule. It is also fact it was Santana who chose how to handle the offseason after rehabbing the previous two winters. Santana felt he needed the rest so he rested. Alderson stated what happened and didn’t rip Santana; there was no criticism, just an analysis.
It is a long season – Santana’s last as a Met – and it doesn’t matter if he is ready April 1 or April 15 or whenever. Santana won’t be traded for a variety of reasons and his value to the Mets this year will be to get the most out of him. It makes no sense to rush him, so don’t be surprised if letting him throw today could come back to bite the Mets.
NIEUWENHUIS INJURED: Frustrated outfield candidate Kirk Nieuwenhuis sustained a bruise to his left knee sliding into second base on a steal attempt today. Nieuwenhuis said his knee ligaments were intact, but Terry Collins indicated there was looseness in the knee. Neither, it should be noted, is an orthopedic specialist.
Nieuwenhuis entered spring training with the inside track at the center field and leadoff positions, but his escalating strikeout totals are working against him. Jordany Valdespin reported in the Mets’ doghouse, but now could make the team at Nieuwenhuis’ expense.
GEE SPARKLES: Dillon Gee, who underwent surgery in the offseason to repair an artery in his shoulder, threw three scoreless innings in today’s 6-4 loss to Miami. It marked the first time Gee faced major leaguers since last July.
Gee gave up three hits and a walk with one strikeout over 50 pitches. Gee expressed no concern about his shoulder, saying he can’t afford to pitch with apprehension.
“Obviously I’m just excited to get out and compete again,’’ Gee told reporters. “The location was just very hit or miss. I wasn’t locating the fastball very well.’’