Twinkies could make a triumphant return this summer, but will Johan Santana? Hostess is selling the Twinkies brand, but the Mets can’t unload Santana so their best option is to hope he mends, then hope for the best.
SANTANA: Speaks on B-Day.
Terry Collins already named Jonathan Niese the Opening Day starter if Santana can’t go, but isn’t ready to tell the veteran left-hander he’s not going to make it north with everybody else in April.
Santana, who celebrated his 34th birthday with a cake at the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie before the team went off to play the Washington Nationals, hasn’t been on the mound since he forced the issue seven days ago.
Santana said he’s not ready to set a date when he’ll return, and acknowledged rehabbing after each of his four seasons with the Mets has taken a toll. Last winter, he took it easy and was not happy when the Mets said he wasn’t in good shape. He also admitted age makes it difficult.
“I want to make sure that whenever that day is, I’m ready to go and good to go for the whole year and not just good for one game,’’ Santana told ESPNNewYork.com this morning. “Then two weeks later they have to shut me down. I don’t want that. I want to make sure that whenever I’m on the mound, I’m on the mound for good.
“As you get older, you have to work more. There’s no question about it. But you have to know yourself very well. That’s what I do. I’m listening to my body the whole time. When you need time, you take time to make sure you move forward. You don’t want a step back.’’
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.
SANTANA: Rough times
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.
Jonathan Niese threw 4.2 scoreless innings this afternoon against the Tigers, begging the question: Why not just off call the charade with Johan Santana?
It is clear Santana won’t be ready for the start of the season, and the only possible result in rushing him is risk injury.
Terry Collins has already said Niese would replace Santana as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster if the veteran lefty isn’t ready.
The Mets are waiting for Santana to throw batting practice and in the bullpen before he gets in a game, and then, under normal circumstances make six exhibition starts until he stretches it 30 innings. Santana’s current timetable is to make four starts.
The Mets can’t deal Santana because of his $31 million contract, and their best value for him is for him to pitch as well as possible.
That begins with being healthy.
METS NOTES: Frank Francisco said he’s feeling fine after yesterday’s bullpen session. He said the next step is another bullpen in a day or two, “maybe,” he said. … Jenrry Mejia gave up one hit in a scoreless inning today against Detroit.
Zack Wheeler said today is the first time he felt exceptionally good since straining his right oblique.
WHEELER: Feeling better.
“Today was the first day I felt 100 percent,’’ Wheeler said. “ Every day leading up to today it felt a little better. It was 100 percent today.’’
Wheeler said he threw all his pitches at about 75 effort, but “I let it out a few times.’’
The plan is for him to rest for two days before throwing another bullpen. Ideally, they’d like to get him in a game sometime next week, but it is dependent on how he responds from this.
Wheeler will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas even if Johan Santana is not ready for Opening Day.
It’s not the pitching line, but the feel of his pitches this time of year.
“I felt good. My stuff was very good,” Jonathan Niese said after this afternoon’s 62-pitch outing against the Venezuelan WBC team.
“I am not used to that kind of workload (this early in spring training). But, that’s a good thing.”
NIESE: More work to do. (AP)
Niese said getting his curveball over and mastering his change-up is what concerns him most. Both are feel pitches requiring time to master.
“I have to get my curveball over,” Niese said. “I couldn’t get my curve-ball over for strikes. My change-up is getting a lot better, but it’s not where I want. I need to build off this. Usually my change-up is always the last pitch. … I like where my arm strength is and I like how the ball is coming out of my hand.”
Niese called pitching to the Venezuelan team, which includes Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Gonzalez as “humbling.”
“They have a good lineup,” Niese said. “They made me work. I made a couple of mistakes and they made me pay for them.”