The expectations are not high for the New York Mets in 2013, but that does not mean they cannot make an unexpected charge for a playoff spot like a couple of teams did last season. The only way this happens is if ace Johan Santana can return to form.
The 33-year-old missed his last few starts of the 2012 season with various injuries, including a sprained right ankle and inflammation in his lower back. With nothing to play for, the Mets decided it was wise to shut down their starter in preparation for 2013. Unfortunately, Santana showed up to Spring Training with the strength in his shoulder weaker than the team expected. This forced New York to postpone his spring debut and build up his shoulder gradually.
The Mets are not worried about Santana missing Opening Day, but they are concerned with him staying healthy this season. The goal is for him to make at least 30 starts, something that the 12-year veteran did consistently from 2003-08. However, injuries have been a problem, which has angered fans considering how much the organization has spent on him.
If Santana successfully completes a bullpen session and batting practice over the next few days then manager Terry Collins will feel comfortable with his pitcher making his Grapefruit League debut on March 14 against the Detroit Tigers. New York is optimistic that Santana will start on Opening Day, but once again, it is not a huge issue if he is unable to go.
The Venezuela native was reportedly upset because he was unable to represent his country in the World Baseball Classic, but he understood why the Mets would not allow him to play. As much as he feels apart of Team Venezuela, his priorities lie with getting physically ready for the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
Even though Santana tossed New York’s first no-hitter in franchise history against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1 of last year, 2012 was a season to forget. His numbers (6-9, 4.85 ERA) were not very good and he made the second least amount of starts (21) in his entire career.
The good news is he is very capable of getting back to his winning ways, as he is not far off from a good season in 2011. I believe Santana will exceed fan expectations this year and prove why he was once talked about as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. If anything else, he will have to be on top of his game because the pressure will be on the starting rotation due to an offense that is not expected to put up much run support and a bullpen that could very likely struggle again this season.