According, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson claims that ace Johan Santana should be returning to the hill by the time the team reconvenes for Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Santana is now three weeks into his usual offseason throwing regimen, which consists of flat surface long tossing on consecutive days.

€œHe′s in a normal progression for Spring Training,€ said Alderson during a Thursday conference call. €œWe expect to see him in Spring Training, and he should be ready to go at that point.€

The two time Cy Young Award winner missed the entire 2011 season after a severe left shoulder injury, suffered in late 2010, which required anterior shoulder capsule surgery €“ a procedure previously necessary for pitchers such as Chien-Ming Wang and Mark Prior. The management was originally optimistic that he would be pitching at the Major League level by last season′s All Star break. This remains unfulfilled.

Mets fans have been hopeful for an end to this, though, aware that Alderson previously referred to Johan Santana returning for Grapefruit League action as €œa question mark€ as recently as a month ago. €œI didn’t want to set off alarms the last time I talked about this, but we are talking about somebody who’s coming off a long rehab,€ said Alderson. €œI think ultimately the questions are going to be answered in Spring Training, not beforehand.€

Obviously the €œquestions€ Alderson eluded to refer to Santana′s physical capabilities following shoulder surgery. Conclusions cannot be drawn regarding expectations until a radar gun determines if there is a dip in velocity. As noted over the last few years, shoulder operations have had this effect more often in comparison to Tommy John elbow surgery.

Santana′s absence was definitely felt throughout the 2010 campaign. Over three seasons with New York, he has gone an impressive 40-25, boasting a 2.85 ERA. Without him, the Mets entire starting staff went an abysmal 53-58 last season, combining for a much higher ERA of 4.17. Lacking a true ace, their best pitcher record-wise wound up being rookie Dillon Gee, who went 13-6 with a 4.32 ERA in 27 starts.

New York handed the ball to 9 starters during the course of a 77-85 season €“ Gee, Jonathan Niese, Chris Capuano, Mike Pelfrey, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey making up the rotation most of the way. Of those 5, Dickey, Capuano, and Pelfrey were the only ones to make at least 30 starts each.

The other four players called upon were Chris Young, Miguel Batista, rookie Chris Schwinden, and D.J. Carrasco. Young, Batista, and Schwinden each made four starts, while Carrasco had just one.


Debby Wong