Mets address Johan's setback, readiness
Left-hander opted for offseason rest; GM Alderson not assigning blame
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Heading into Spring Training, both the Mets and left-hander Johan Santana expected the two-time Cy Young Award winner to be ready to pitch.
But when the 33-year-old threw two bullpen sessions early in camp and coaches noticed a lack of velocity in the second one, they shut him down from mound activity.
"What I've been asked in the last day or two is, 'Is his arm OK?'," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "And the answer to that is yes. As far as we know, his arm is fine. The second question is, 'Was he ready to pitch when he arrived at Spring Training?' And it seems to me it's self-evident that he wasn't ready to pitch at the beginning of Spring Training, since he hasn't pitched at this point."
"Beyond that, characterizing were we surprised or disappointed [or] unhappy, those are reactions I'm not really ready to get into. In the case of any pitcher who isn't ready to go in Spring Training, sure there's a little disappointment, but that's true with anybody in any situation."
What has been brought up for debate is whether Santana's offseason activity -- or lack thereof -- could have influenced his setback.
During the winter, the four-time All-Star decided to rest rather than follow a routine he used in previous winters when he rehabbed various injuries. In August 2009, Santana underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow. In September 2010, Santana had surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder that forced him to miss all of the '11 season.
When Mets manager Terry Collins and other members of the organization touched base over the offseason, Santana told them the rest was doing him good.
"There's always going to be a variance of opinion," Collins said. "Somebody said I wish he would've thrown more. Well, last year he threw and threw and threw and came into Spring Training and faded out at the end. We can't have that. Matter of fact, one of things as I look back on the second half [was] not only the loss of Dillon Gee, but the fact that Johan wasn't the same guy he was in the first half."
In late August, Santana was shut down with lower back inflammation. CBSsports.com posted a story on Saturday in which Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, said he believed the pitcher's season went downhill after his ankle was stepped on while covering first base in a start after his no-hitter. An MRI exam revealed some ligament stretching in the ankle.
Following the first no-hitter in New York Mets history on June 1 against the Cardinals, Santana went 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA, allowing at least six runs in his final five starts.
Alderson refused to blame anyone for Santana's setback. When asked whether age could be a factor, Alderson replied, "It's conceivable that's a factor, but who knows where it lies on the spectrum."
"I'm not pointing fingers at the organization or at Johan. We're dealing with reality, which is he's not ready to pitch and he will be at some point. We hope it's sooner rather than later. If there are lessons to be learned, we'll certainly consider them."
Collins spoke with Santana for 15 minutes before Saturday's 8-8 tie with the Marlins at Tradition Field, emphasizing to the southpaw that the most important thing was Santana's best interest.
As Santana continues his long-toss program -- he will throw from 150 feet on Sunday and then at 180 on Tuesday -- he could take the mound for live batting practice the following Thursday. From there, Santana could then make his first Grapefruit League start on or around March 10.
"If he's not ready to pitch Opening Day, that's fine, as long as I know he's going to be able to pitch the rest of the summer and not just three or four months of it," Collins said. "[He told me], 'Look I'm going to be just fine and I will be there Opening Day.'"
If the schedule doesn't go as planned, Santana could miss a start at the beginning of the season. He might not go on the disabled list, because the team has a few early off-days.
No MRI has been conducted or planned. Dr. David Altcheck, who performed Santana's surgery in 2010, has been in Port St. Lucie and told team personnel Santana's arm is "sound."
In fact, Alderson as well as pitching coach Dan Warthen have noted his improvement over the past two weeks.
"I'm hoping he will be [ready for Opening Day]," Warthen said. "His progress has escalated over the last week. His arm strength is coming quite rapidly, and I hope to see him throwing relatively soon."
Christina De Nicola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.