Feb 22

Santana’s Arm Weakness Could Delay Spring Debut By Two Weeks

johan santana springSandy Alderson told reporters today the Mets Spring Complex, that left-hander Johan Santana’s first Grapefruit League start would be pushed back by as much as two weeks.

Alderson said that there was no structural issue and that it is just a matter of building up strength in Santana’s arm. Initially, Santana was scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League appearance on March 2nd, but a lack of velocity during his last bullpen session raised concerns.

The Mets presumed Opening Day starter says he is in no pain, but obviously this is something to keep an eye on.

According to the Mets GM, Santana will do some long-tossing once he gets back on a mound and no timetable for his return will be set until further evaluation.

Santana, 33, has not pitched in a game since being shutdown by the Mets last August and was prescribed rest for the offseason.

We’ll keep you posted as this story further develops…

Feb 18

Mets’ Full-Squad Workouts Start Today; Collins’ Lame-Duck Status

The Mets will have their first full squad workout this morning, prior to which Terry Collins will address his teams. Like I posted last night, don’t expect rah-rah. And, don’t expect the manager to use his lame-duck status as a motivator. He doesn’t work that way.

It must be an odd feeling for Collins to enter the season as a lame duck manager. Ownership and upper management are looking ahead to 2014, when Johan Santana’s contract will be off the books.

Trouble for Collins is he’s thinking about this year because there’s no guarantee of anything beyond while everybody else is thinking of the future.

Collins knows the score, but to his credit he’s not saying anything about it. Fred Wilpon and Sandy Alderson said they are pleased with the job Collins is doing and I’m wondering when that will translate into an extension.

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Feb 17

Johan Santana Has A Good Throw Day

The highlight of the day in Mets’ camp was Johan Santana’s first mound session of the spring; 20 pain-free pitches in chilly Port St. Lucie.

“This is my first time in a while, but it was fine,” Santana told reporters in Florida, where the weather has been brisk and rainy. “I don’t think it was my best or anything, but it’s Day 1. You’ve got to start at some point.

“Today was a beginning for me. … You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time I was just trying to get my job done and not trying to overdo things out there.’’

Not surprisingly, the Mets’ plan is to treat Santana with kid gloves. He needs to throw again and pitch batting practice before getting into an exhibition game. Usually the first exhibition is 30 pitches or two innings, and there’s no reason to think the Mets would deviate. Normally, pitchers make six starts and up to 30 innings during spring training.

The Mets are scheduled to pay Santana $31 million this year, including a $5.5 million option. A $25 million option for 2014 kicks in if he throws 215 innings this summer, and there’s no way the Mets will let him approach that figure.

The Mets are in a difficult position because they need to move on from Santana’s contract, yet at the same time if he were healthy and productive it gives them a chance to have a competitive season. Ideally, the Mets would like to deal him, but the innings clause applies to any team that trades for him and that would make him more than just a rental.

Santana didn’t pitch in 2011 as he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. His first season with the Mets in 2008 was his only one with the team where he made all 34 starts. He ended last season on the disabled list with lower back inflammation.

In looking at the Santana trade, it is clear the Mets overpaid, both in terms of prospects – although none panned out to have successful major league careers – and obviously in terms of salary. In looking at a trade, one must also consider the circumstances at the time.

In 2008, the Mets were coming off a historic season in which their bullpen collapsed and they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. The previous season they lost the NLCS in seven games to St. Louis. In both seasons their pitching was suspect and a workhorse was needed.

Both the Yankees and Boston were after him, but pulled out when Minnesota’s asking price was deemed to high. Then GM Omar Minaya said Santana fell back to them and he did because there was no other competition.

Feb 15

Monitoring Santana And Keeping Him Away From The WBC

I realize the matter of national pride and his desire to represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but Johan Santana is set to get $31 million from the Mets this year (including a $5.5 million buyout) and that’s where his responsibility lies and the team has told him so.

Once ardent supporters of the WBC, the team has told Santana it doesn’t want him to pitch in the international event.

There’s no disputing Santana pitches hard and has been a workhorse when healthy, but the problem is staying healthy. Only in 2008, his first year with the Mets, did Santana make his entire allotment of 34 starts.

Santana10The Mets have paid Santana a considerable amount of money, including a full season (2011) when he gave them nothing. This is his last year with the Mets and the club is within their rights to insist he not risk injury in the World Baseball Classic.

The magic number for Santana this year is 215, as in the number of innings he must pitch for his $25 million option to kick in. Considering his recent history, that likely won’t be a problem, but if he’s healthy it will be an interesting scenario.

You can bet the Players Association would get involved if Santana was close and had to skip a start or two. If it involves a player getting less money, they will be all over it.

Actually, if the Mets can’t, or won’t trade him, they would be wise to periodically skip him to keep him strong.

Teams have monitored pitcher’s pitch counts for years, but only recently has the trend turned to limiting pitcher’s innings in a season. Innings clauses in contracts are designed for teams to get the most for their money, but that backfires in the case of injury or if a player reached the level to have his option kick in and pitch poorly the next year.

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Feb 11

Mets Pitchers And Catchers Report Today With Several Questions

Pitchers and catchers report today in Port St. Lucie, although dozens of Mets are already in camp, which is the first encouraging sign of spring training.

As with most teams, the Mets have an array of issues and questions they must address over the next six weeks if they have hope of being competitive this season.

Gee: How healthy is he?

Gee: How healthy is he?

It begins with health and pitching, which for the Mets seem intertwined every spring. A competitive season needs a sound Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, with the Mets ideally getting 200 innings from each.

Gee is coming off surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm. He’s shown flashes, but hasn’t been projected any higher than a fourth starter. Then again, Gee has never pitched a complete season where he’s gotten over 30 starts. Obviously, if he can do that and approach 200 innings it would take strain from a makeshift bullpen.

As for Santana, this is his walk year. If he remains healthy and productive, the Mets have a chance to approach .500. However, regardless of how well he pitches the Mets will not pick up his option for 2014. Trading Santana is wishful thinking, but should they get lucky the Mets would have to assume a portion of Santana’s contract.

Complete and healthy seasons from Santana and Gee, plus the continued development of Matt Harvey will only begin to make up for the loss of R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, he doesn’t fall back to his pre-Cy Young performance. Dickey is not the second coming of Tom Seaver, and last year was his first as a dominant pitcher. Still, it’s 20 fewer wins from the rotation.

Figuring the Mets break camp with their rotation intact, the next issue is their makeshift bullpen.

GM Sandy Alderson backtracked and Frank Francisco is the closer going in, but that’s written in pencil as he’s coming off elbow surgery. This means spring training is for the Mets to determine Francisco’s health or come up with another closer, probably Bobby Parnell or recently-signed Brandon Lyon.

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