Mar 25

Did Santana Commit Career Suicide?

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HOW MUCH IS SANTANA CAUSE OF HIS OWN PROBLEMS?

When Johan Santana said he doesn’t know when he will pitch again, it isn’t inconceivable it could be never.

Santana’s left shoulder is not getting better and it isn’t unfair to wonder if the prideful or stubborn lefthander – take your pick – may have committed career suicide on March 3, a quiet Sunday that turned into one of the Mets’ loudest days of spring training.

The day after GM Sandy Alderson said he thought the Mets’ $31-million commitment was at least ten days from getting on the mound and not in good shape, Santana took it upon himself to prove him and the questioning media wrong.

Now, there’s no longer doubt of him staying in Florida or being on the Opening Day roster.

“I’ve just got to stay here and work out and get ready,’’ Santana told reporters over the weekend. “… I’m making progress. It’s just I don’t know when I’m going to be pitching again. That’s the thing: We cannot think ahead. The way we’re approaching everything is every day make sure we have a good day.’’

Too bad he wasn’t thinking that way when he expressed displeasure in not playing in the World Baseball Classic, and later anger at Alderson. Who knows what went through Santana’s mind when he took the mound with an “I’ll show you’’ chip on his shoulder.

How can there be progress when he can’t think ahead? How can there be progress when his shoulder isn’t close?

Since that day, Santana threw a light session, but was scratched from a start and has been reduced to 90-foot long tossing. Do you realize how far away that distance is from a regular season game?

He must gradually build up to 180 feet, and after cleared at that distance will he be allowed on the mound. Then, it’s throwing batting practice and building his pitch count up to 100. Manager Terry Collins said Santana needs to go through a spring training, which is six weeks. But, that clock doesn’t start until he gets on the mound, and nobody can say when that will be.

That’s progress?

And, that’s assuming there are no setbacks, of which there have been several during this struggle since shoulder surgery in September of 2010 to repair a torn anterior capsule.

Of course, it is hard to pinpoint an exact time when a pitcher’s million-dollar arm turns to ten cents. There was the injury in 2010, but Santana had issues with his shoulder in Minnesota before the trade to the Mets.

The wear and tear on a major league pitcher’s arm begins with the first pitch. Santana made 34 starts in 2008, his first year with the Mets, but had surgery in the off-season and hasn’t come close to pitching a full season since.

After two winters of rehab, Santana made it back last year with initial success, including a controversial no-hitter, the only one in franchise history.

Did Collins make a mistake leaving Santana in for 134 pitches, thinking he was giving the pitcher a shot at a career moment and Mets’ fans their lone bright spot in what would be a dark summer?

Of course, Santana didn’t want to come out, and no pitcher admits to being tired, but this was different. Had the no-hitter not been on the table Santana never would have continued pitching. His summer quickly unraveled and included a career-worst six-game losing streak.

After two winters of rehab, Santana, with the Mets’ knowledge, did not have a normal offseason. Then again, nothing has been routine about his winters since 2007 as there has been an injury issue each year.

“I’ve been in this game for a while,’’ Santana said. “I went through that [surgery] a couple of years ago and I’m still here. So I’m going to battle and try to come back and help as much as I can. When that is going to happen, I don’t really know.’’

Several questions are raised through Santana’s uncertainty. How much did the no-hitter hurt him? How carefully was Santana monitored in the offseason? Did going slower backfire? It is easy to suggest the no-hitter hurt, but how much did Santana contribute to his own demise this spring?

“I’m just building up my strength and throwing more volume,’’ Santana said. “… With injuries you never know. I got to spring training feeling good. And then, once I started getting to pitch and stuff and I got on the mound, I didn’t feel I was making progress.’’

If he didn’t believe he was making progress, then why consider the WBC?  More to the point, if he wasn’t making progress why did he get on the mound March 3, when his manager wasn’t expecting him to throw for nearly two weeks?

What forced him, pride or anger? Perhaps, he simply ran out of patience waiting to find out if he’ll ever make it back.

Santana might finally have his answer.

Mar 24

Mets Roster Taking Shape; Matt Harvey Rocked

The Mets are closer to settling on their Opening Day roster, and being the Mets, some of their decision-making is predicated on injuries.

MURPHY: DL bound?

MURPHY: DL bound?

Half their infield – third baseman David Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, both of whom are slowed with strained intercostal muscles – will be determined at the end of the week, but the disabled list remains very much in play for both.

Wright reported no problems after taking live batting practice today, but how he felt after his swings is not the story.

“It’s the next step,’’ Wright told reporters. “Any time you get to the next step, it’s a significant step. It’s one step closer. … It’s important that I see how I feel tomorrow. I’ve said all along that Opening Day is my goal.’’

In all probability, Wright and Murphy will open the season backdated to the disabled list, meaning they would miss only the first five games of the season. It they were to play in a major league exhibition game and are injured, their DL stints would be backdated to the day after the injury.

Murphy played in a minor league game today and saw his first meaningful pitch since last season said it was “like trying to hit an aspirin.’’ Murphy went 1-for-2 with a walk, but said the biggest test might have been when he checked his swing and didn’t feel anything.

Because of the structure of minor league spring training games, Murphy could get as many as five or six at-bats a game, but that could increase the possibility of overdoing things and sustaining another injury.

If both Wright and Murphy go on the DL, one scenario has Justin Turner playing third and Jordany Valdespin at second. Another has Zach Lutz playing third and Turner at second.

Brandon Hicks is no longer a third base option as he was outrighted to the minors today, leaving way for Omar Quintanilla to make the team.

In addition, the Mets optioned to the minor league camp left-hander Aaron Laffey, Andrew Brown, Brian Bixler and Jamie Hoffman. By sending down Laffey, the Mets are reasonably sure Shaun Marcum – who missed his last start and took a cortisone injection in his shoulder – will be able to rejoin the rotation Thursday. Of course, if he’s not, it’s easy enough to recall Laffey.

A long shot to make the Opening Day roster, despite their need for defense in the outfield, was center fielder Matt den Dekker. That’s not going to happen now as broke his right wrist attempting to make a catch today. Compared to Jim Edmonds, den Dekker has had an exceptional spring in the field, but has struggled until recently at the plate.

METS OPTION d’ARNAUD: The Mets’ key to the R.A. Dickey was getting catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets gambled keeping d’Arnaud around this week because had he been injured he would have opened the season on the major league disabled list, which would have started the clock on his service time. Should d’Arnaud, who hit .343 this spring, spend the first 20 days of the season in the minor leagues, his free agency would be delayed from after the 2018 season to after the 2019 season. His arbitration status would also be delayed a year if he’s not one of the top 22 percent of rookies called up.

That’s irrelevant insists GM Sandy Alderson.

“I know people talk about control and all of that,’’ Alderson said. “If John Buck gets hurt tomorrow, Travis d’Arnaud is the front-line catcher.’’

THE GAME: Matt Harvey’s next-to-last spring training start was not a good one, as he was hit for four runs in five innings in a 9-4 loss in a split-squad game to Detroit. In the other game, the Mets rallied from six runs down to beat St. Louis as Jamie Hoffman, Lutz and Mike Baxter homered.

Harvey struck out the side in the first, including Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, but it was all uphill from there. Harvey said he let his emotions get away from him and overthrew after the first inning.

“Definitely something I learned is try not to get too pumped up for a team and a lineup like that – back off and let everything work,’’ Harvey said.

Also not having a good day was set-up reliever Brandon Lyon, who gave up five runs on six his in one third of an inning.

Mar 17

Wright Expresses No Regrets; Doesn’t Mean He’s Right In WBC Flap

David Wright is correct, his rib injury could have happened anytime. It could have happened carrying groceries from the car.

That isn’t the issue.

WRIGHT: Call it E-5

WRIGHT: Call it E-5

The issues are Wright was injured while at the World Baseball Classic – whatever he was doing at the time, it was away from the Mets – and did not report his injury in a timely fashion.

Also an issue is Wright has a strained left intercostal muscle and faces the strong possibility of being on the disabled list to start the season. What should be an issue if you’re the Mets is Wright gave no sign of regret about the WBC, and the perception of minimizing the injury.

“You can get hurt in spring training,’’ Wright told reporters prior to today’s 2-1 loss to Atlanta. “You can get hurt before spring training. Playing baseball, there’s some risk that comes along with that. … It has nothing to do with the tournament itself. It has everything to do with some bad luck.’’

Sure, it is bad luck, but that’s not Mets fans want to hear. They want to know if their All-Star third baseman, who was just signed to a $138 million package, will be able to play Opening Day. The WBC is a hard enough sell as it is in the United States, and Wright was injured participating in the international tournament. Mets fans don’t care about promoting baseball around the globe.

There is also the perception Wright placed his personal desire to represent his country – as admirable as that is – over his obligation to the Mets.

“Of course I owe it to the Mets to be honest with them, and I was,’’ Wright insists. “Ultimately when I started going in and getting treatment for it, the Mets saw that and they called me. I was honest with how I was feeling.

“Once it got to the point where I started not being able to sleep, or when it was painful to lounge around, that’s when obviously I started going to get treatment and talking to [trainer] Ray [Ramirez] and [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and those guys.’’

Wright said those conversations took place Wednesday, which contradicts Alderson’s assertion the Mets didn’t become aware until shortly before game time Thursday. That doesn’t help the Mets’ image. The Mets have been known for their sloppy handling of injuries, ranging from Ryan Church’s concussion to Carlos Beltran’s knee to Johan Santana’s shoulder this spring.

That won’t go away, especially if Wright isn’t ready for the season, as appears the case. Wright can’t commit to Opening Day, saying he needs to be cautious and not risk further injury and be out even longer. So, where was the caution when Wright felt pain for a week before reporting it to WBC trainers?

“Once it got to the point where I thought it might obviously prohibit me from coming back and producing with the Mets, that’s when it was time to make that decision,’’ Wright said. “I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what’s tolerable and what’s not tolerable.’’

Well, how about when Wright played a month with pain in his lower back which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture? And, last spring he had the same injury and was out a month. Nobody ever questioned Wright not being a gamer, but that isn’t the issue.

Wright’s desire to represent his country and honor his commitment is admirable. However, it is his judgment here that is in question. His first obligation is to the Mets.

Mar 15

Wright’s Injury Raises Questions

The hits just keep on coming for the New York Mets. It remains to be seen when they’ll resume for their All-Star third baseman, David Wright, who was a leading MVP candidate for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.

Wright was scratched from Thursday night’s game against the Dominican Republic with rib soreness in his lower back left side. He was to be examined this morning in Port St. Lucie, but will now travel directly to New York, which could denote the Mets believe the injury is worse than originally speculated.

WRIGHT: What's he thinking now?

WRIGHT: What’s he thinking now?

Initially, Wright expressed optimism he would be able to continue to play, but that won’t happen now.

“I wanted to play tonight, but I understand the decision,’’ Wright said in Miami, where the game was being played. “I’m disappointed. That goes without saying. But I completely understand the direction that they’re going.’’

Wright started experiencing soreness a week ago and said recently he had difficult sleeping. This was reported to the Mets, but he was not told to immediately report to his team or club physicians. When the pain persisted the Mets pulled the plug on Wright’s WBC experience.

Why the Mets didn’t force the issue early needs to be questioned, as does Wright’s willingness to play through the injury.

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Mar 13

Johan Santana Celebrates Birthday By Talking

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.

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.’’

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