By Ed Coleman
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Johan Santana walked to the outfield grass at Digital Domain Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida on Friday the 13th, stepped back about 20 more feet from where he had unleashed 25 long-toss throws the day before, and followed up with 25-30 more throws before calling it quits. Santana then went inside to work out, showered, got into his car and headed back across the state to his home in Fort Myers. The Met’s ace lefthander will continue this regimen four times a week for the foreseeable future – either at Mets camp or home in Fort Myers – until it’s time to take the next step in his rehab back to a major league mound.
After shutting things down for two months in November and most of December, Santana resumed throwing about three weeks ago. These are the early steps in the process, so what’s the goal at the moment?
Everyone wants to jump ahead and ascertain whether Santana can make his spring training starts without a problem, and actually be there to take the mound at CitiField in April for Opening Day.
The baseball season is still three months away, but will Santana be there to throw a bullpen session on February 22 – the first official day of pitchers and catchers in Port St. Lucie.
However, Santana believes the early signs are encouraging.
The landscape has definitely changed in the N.L.East. Santana said he would miss Jose Reyes both as a friend and a teammate. He realizes it makes an already tough division that much tougher.
Most experts – heck, most Met fans – give this team absolutely no chance to compete in a loaded division. But don’t tell that to the ultimate competitor Santana.
Santana is an expensive commodity considering his uncertain status. The Mets are on the hook for at least $55 million – $24 million this season, $25.5 million in 2013, and either a vesting option or a $5.5 million buyout in 2014. His calling card has always been a mid-90′s fastball combined with a devastating changeup. But his early velocity has varied from 86-90 MPH, which could ultimately affect his signature or out pitch, the changeup. Pitchers often have erratic velocity after surgery on their shoulders, but Santana is hopeful – and seemingly confident – that things will work out positive in the end.
And has there been something that he’s had to keep in mind on a daily basis to get him through this lengthy process and difficult time?
The prevailing sentiment amongst Met fans seems to be the hope that the Wilpons will be forced to sell the team, and that the club can move forward and reconstruct under new ownership. Don’t count on it. At the recent baseball owners’ meetings in Arizona, Mets owner Fred Wilpon reiterated his desire to hold onto the team – “How can anybody deny it’s been a challenging time? But I came from nothing, so I meet the challenges. And so does our whole family and the Met organization. We’re meeting the challenges and I think that we’ll be fine.”
One of Wilpon’s strongest allies – baseball Commissioner Bud Selig – was just re-upped for two more years. And Selig again professed his support for Wilpon at the meetings – “They are making progress and that’s a good sign. He’s been a great owner, loves his team. He’ s everything you’d want in a local owner. He’s had some economic problems not caused by himself and I have a lot of faith in him that he’s working his way through that.”
The Mets should close on the sale of at least four minority shares (and possibly as many as seven) worth $20 million each by the end of this month. They hope to eventually sell 10 units for needed capital to pay off a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball, a $40 million bridge loan, money for operating expenses and future debt coming due over the next couple of years. Wilpon commented on a necessary and logical first step at the owners’ meetings – “I think that we have to get the fans back at the stadium. That’s a necessity, that’s a lifeblood. To do that, we have to have a good team. Our fans really deserve some good play on the field and I’m very hopeful.. I think we’re going to be better than you think. Give this team a try.”
Some fans will. It might be trying for others. Having an ace lefthander you can definitely count on every 5 days would certainly help.
C U soon