A long season has saddled Johan Santana with back pain, ankle discomfort and other illnesses that he considers normal wear-and-tear for a starting pitcher. But examine them within the context of Santana’s road back from left shoulder surgery, without even mentioning his importance to the team, and it becomes plain why the Mets are considering shutting him down for the season.
Even so, that plan won’t come into effect yet. The New York Mets expounded before Monday’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies that Santana should make his next start as scheduled on Thursday, with the team revisiting the idea of shutting him down at a later date. But that relies on the results of an MRI on Santana’s lower back.
“At some point, there’s a diminishing return,” GM Sandy Alderson announced. “It’s been a long year, a long offseason of rehabilitation. Johan essentially has accomplished quite a bit over the course of this season and, at the right time, we really have to think as much about next year as we do about this year.”
The catch is that even if healthy, Santana will be on a strict pitch count for Thursday’s start, prohibiting him from throwing 100 pitches as the N.Y Mets attempt to squeeze another few starts out of their former ace. Once rosters expand on Sept. 1, it’ll be much easier for them to replace Santana in the rotation, so Alderson indicated that Santana will make “another start or two, minimum.”
But Santana has been experiencing back pain recently, which could prevent him from pitching, at all.
“It’s going to be start to start,” manager Terry Collins related. “We’re going to have a look and actually analyze where we are, what we’re doing, what we’re getting out of it, what he’s getting out of it and make a continued decision as we go.”
Santana opened the season on fire, going 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA over his first 11 starts and throwing a 134-pitch no-hitter June 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals. But since that game, he’s gone 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA, spending time on the DL with a sprained right ankle and going 0-and-5 with a 15.63 ERA upon his return. This is his 1st season back from anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder, which he underwent in Sept. 2010. Scores
He hasn’t yet had a top notch start since June 30, a span of 5 starts, and he hasn’t recorded more than 15 outs (5 full innings) once in that time, either. Santana’s 117 innings and 21 starts for the season may not seem like much, but they aren’t necessarily easy for a 33-year-old who didn’t throw a pitch in 2011.
The 2-time Cy Young award winner has one guaranteed year and at least $31 million remaining on his agreement, giving the New York Mets incentive to keep him as healthy as possible heading into 2013.