By Rich Coutinho
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For Johan Santana, it is a step-by-step process, but I must say he is progressing very nicely after yet another positive mound session. I watched him closely on one of the bullpen backfields and the thing that impressed me the most was that he used all of his pitches and threw each of them confidently and efficiently. I can only gauge his velocity since we have no gun readings but I do think that is the next area he will try to tackle.
Listen: Johan Santana talks to the media
There is still much work to do as Santana readily admits,”We still have to get through a few more bullpens … live batting practice and ultimately games … that is what we are shooting for.” I have said all winter that a healthy and effective Johan Santana changes the whole equation for the Mets. However, we must also temper our enthusiasm because it is still so early and there are more obstacles to overcome but clearly the Mets could not have envisioned a better start for Santana.
“I really threw my last six pitches today with a high degree of intensity”, says Santana,”and to me that is an important step because to tell you the truth, I can’t wait to pitch in a game.” I am sure he is not the only one that can not wait for that but the Mets know they must proceed slowly so there are no setbacks. Because this pitcher, if healthy, changes everything and those “low expectations” might dissipate if #57 is on top of his game this season.
But beyond his on the field presence every fifth day, Santana has an impact every single day when he is in the clubhouse. He is a confident professional that absolutely hates to lose and he impeccably prepares for his starts. He also loves talking pitching to the other hurlers. That is difficult to do rehabbing in Port St. Lucie and the Mets missed that last year. For example, revealing that Mike Stanton is a better off-speed hitter on certain counts means a lot coming from an ace southpaw that has won post-season games and for younger pitchers like Dillon Gee, who rely on command, it can be very useful.
The thing I keep hearing from Met fans is how do we compete with the pitching in the NL East? Well, a healthy Santana would allow RA Dickey to slot in as an effective #2 looking at the numbers he has put up in his 2 year Met career. And it will allow Jonathan Niese, Jonathan Niese, and Mike Pelfrey to be put in roles more in line with their abilities. And suddenly the Mets rotation does not look so bad. But the key is Santana.
So when I say #57 changes everything, see what I mean?