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.
SANTANA: Pushes himself to mound. (AP)
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.
It is not surprising that GM Sandy Alderson indicated today it is “less and less likely,’’ Johan Santana
would be ready for Opening Day.
Alderson attributed that to Santana not being in good shape when he reported to spring training because he didn’t go through his normal off-season routine after extensive rehabbing the previous two winters.
“From my standpoint, his arm is fine, as far as we know,’’ Alderson told reporters. “Was he ready to pitch when he came into camp? No. Even he may have been a little surprised by that.
“So that leaves us where we are today. And where we are today is getting him ready to pitch as soon as we possibly can. We haven’t rule out Opening Day, although given when we think he might get on the mound, it becomes less and less likely. We haven’t given up on that notion yet. And we’ll see where it takes us.’’
The Mets are kidding themselves in thinking Santana has a chance to make the Opening Day start because he hasn’t thrown off the mound since Feb. 19.
Jonathan Niese will start if Santana opens the season on the disabled list. In that scenario, ESPN reports the earliest Santana could start would be the sixth game of the season.
Also expected to open the season on the disabled list is closer Frank Francisco, meaning Bobby Parnell will get that opportunity.
Jonathan Niese, whom I called the Mets’ most significant starter at the opening of training camp, threw three scoreless innings Friday against Detroit.
A key for Niese will be how he controls his change-up.
Niese, incidentally, will be the Opening Day starter if Johan Santana can’t go. I say book it. No way would Terry Collins send Matt Harvey out there just ten starts into his career.
Harvey will get the ball his afternoon against Miami.
As far as pitching assignments go, figure Bobby Parnell as the closer because Frank Francisco, who is down with a sore elbow, will likely not be ready.
AROUND THE HORN: David Wright leaves today for the World Baseball Classic. (I’ll have something on the WBC later today). … Lucas Duda was a scratch yesterday because of a medical issue. The Mets are saying it is minor. … Daniel Murphy has started hitting off a tee. He’s nine days away from playing in a game.
General manager Sandy Alderson stopped short of saying manager Terry Collins’ job was secure, but in a conference call this week, left the impression he will be judged with a broad paintbrush.
COLLINS: He’s smiling now.
As GM, Alderson’s job description entails building for the future, while his lame duck manager has nothing guaranteed beyond this season.
That doesn’t mean the two perspectives can’t co-exist.
Collins’ extension will be assured if the Mets have a winning season, but even if they don’t – very possible considering their holes – he could be back in the dugout in 2014, when the spending is supposed to begin.
“Well I think there are two things upon which a manager is evaluated,’’ Alderson said. “One is wins and losses, and the other is the improvement of the players on the team. And regardless of whether you have a veteran-dominated team or a younger team, players have to improve.
“And more importantly, they have to be motivated to improve, and that’s really partly where the manager comes in. I think that Terry will be evaluated on both of those bases, with the understanding that the wins and losses are not an absolute – to some extent they are relative to the talent that we have.’’
GM Sandy Alderson said not to discount Jordany Valdespin as a potential leadoff hitter. Valdespin had two singles in that role in last night’s 4-4 tie with Washington.
Valdespin played second base last night and will get a chance to play the outfield. There is a chance Valdespin could make the roster at second if Daniel Murphy isn’t ready.
Murphy will be out for another week to ten days with a strained muscle in his right side.
Valdespin made a bad impression with the Mets last year because of his lack of hustle, and compounded that by being suspended in winter ball. He’s been the good soldier so far this spring.