It was a little over a week ago when the Mets pointed to March 14 as the target date for getting Johan Santana in an exhibition game. Doing so would have given him three, maybe four starts to be ready for Opening Day.
It won’t happen.
Outside of that ill-advised mound session, we haven’t seen, or heard, much from the testy lefty this spring. Today, he sniped at reporters who had the gall to try to talk to him – imagine that? – giving a curt response about not understanding the concept of an off day.
By definition, an off day is when no game is scheduled. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on. There was a reason why Santana was at the complex, just as there was a reason reporters were present.
At the time of the projection, Terry Collins said, “we’re not worried about April 1, we’re worried about 30 starts.’’
At this rate, it doesn’t look as if he’ll get either, even if Santana was pushed to the back of the rotation for the first cycle. Whether he’s ready or not, Santana’s last two exhibition starts would come against minor league competition, because if he were placed on the disabled list to the start the season the Mets could backdate it into spring training.
This reduces the time Santana would miss in the regular season although it is highly unlikely he would reach the 215 innings plateau needed to activate his 2014 option. I don’t know what the Mets are waiting for if not to placate Santana’s ego. He won’t be ready for the start of the season and the decision the Mets are avoiding is only inevitable.
Santana is a highly sensitive and intense individual, but something has come over him this spring, from putting his desire to pitch in the WBC over his physical status and the needs of the team paying him $31 million this year, to throwing off the mound without telling Collins, to his general snippy demeanor towards a media that has generally coddled him.
At this stage of his career, Santana should know when a high-profile player, who has been injured, shies away from the press the media tends to dig harder. It is apparent Santana is not fine, he is not ready for the season. There can be no hiding this, regardless of what picture the Mets want to paint.
This past week Santana showed more enthusiasm, more joy, mugging with friends from the Venezuelan WBC team than he did his Mets teammates. Santana was mostly a recluse the past week, minding his own business and barely speaking to anybody, and least not in the clubhouse where he could be seen.
Perhaps Santana is pressing because he sees the end coming, whether it be his stay in Flushing or his career. Perhaps the testiness comes acting like a diva while knowing he has no right to be.
It is clear this will be Santana’s last season with the Mets. It is also clear he’s wearing out his welcome before it is time to say good-bye.