We have discussed it numerous times over the past several months – going all the way back September if not August. Johan Santana has been on the comeback trail for the New York Mets since this past summer and he took another step toward his return when he threw off of a mound for the first time this season in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Johan Santana tossed 25 pitches in this first bullpen session using his fastball, change-up and slider. The New York Mets are on the hook for a nice chunk of change over the next two seasons so it would be nice to get something out of the lefty. Not only for financial purposes, but obviously because a successful return would be a nice boost on the field as well.
This is obviously great news for Santana and the Mets. If the two-time Cy Young Award winner can even return to 85-90% of his former self – still a stretch perhaps – then he’ll be a nice asset to the Mets. I imagine his innings will be monitored very closely no matter how he looks throughout the season, but his presence on the big league roster will still upgrade the pitching staff. I find it interesting that the Mets are talking about Santana as if they’re expecting him to start the season in the big league rotation. Perhaps that is just the typical pre-Spring Training optimism, but I have come across blurbs over the past few weeks suggesting a more pessimistic outlook. However, it should go without saying that they know their players better than any outsider speaking his mind.
Even though this is exciting news, I have to make sure I don’t get too caught up in the buzz. First of all, as I just mentioned, there is still a decent chance that Santana does not start the season in the Majors. Shoulder surgeries are tricky and have not been broken down to the same science as Tommy John surgery. That brings me to my second point. If we were talking about elbow surgery I’d feel a lot more optimistic, but the track record of successful returns from shoulder surgery is much shorter. Before we get too enthusiastic about Johan Santana’s return to the New York Mets, let’s see him pitch in a Major League game first and then let’s see him perform (semi)close to his capabilities. It is still a very positive step though.
For more on the dim present and the bright future of the New York Mets starting pitching, follow me on twitter@craigmwilliams.