Johan Santana is poised to throw off a mound Friday for the first time since a makeshift game with instructional league players in his hometown of Fort Myers, Fla., at the end of last season.
And, pitching coach Dan Warthen said, Santana should pitch every five days once Grapefruit League games begin, on a regular schedule -- barring any complications.
New York Mets
Santana’s first three starts of the regular season each should have an extra day of rest, but that’s only because the Mets have team off-days each of the first three weeks of the season -- not because the rotation will be juggled to accommodate Santana needing extra time, according to Warthen.
Santana has not appeared in the majors since undergoing Sept. 14, 2010 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.
“We will treat it conservative. It’s going to go by him,” Warthen said Thursday, after playing catch with Santana in St. Lucie for a second straight day. “I would like him to do every fifth day in spring training -- especially the first couple of times, early, when you’re only throwing 25 and 35 pitches to see how he is, to see how it reacts, see if he throws his bullpen in-between. And then if it’s reacting well then we’ll keep on the five days. If he feels that he needs the extra day, then he comes in and tells Terry [Collins] and I and we give him an extra day. We may give him two extra days. Whatever the case may be. But at this point in time we plan on him going every fifth day.”
In reality, Santana stepping on a mound is not much of a milestone. It’s only notable because it’s his first time since a winter layoff. He actually appeared in four games -- real or structured -- last season against minor leaguers. The question to learn in spring training is whether the surgically repaired shoulder can sustain a regular workload.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Santana said. “To recover from one start to another, that’s what we’re going to figure out and see how we’re going to work and take care of it. I’ve got to go through that process.”
Warthen said he can tell a difference with Santana’s arm strength just while playing catch. When the two did similar activity in Miami late last season when Santana was visiting the major league team, the southpaw’s throws lacked oomph once he reached 100 feet. Now, there’s a little giddy-up.
“He was playing catch and we would get to maybe 100 feet and there would be a little bit of a ‘die’ at the end of his throw,” Warthen recalled about last year. “Well, yesterday, he was at 100 feet, and that ball 20 feet out, where it used to die, it took off or stayed on that same plane. … That late finish that he’s so well noted for started to show up again.”
Still, Warthen warned, pitchers returning from shoulder surgeries often have erratic velocity start to start.
“Absolutely,” Warthen said. “That’s very common. You might have two or three starts in a row, and then you just run through what you refer to as a ‘dead arm.’ It doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t come out as well. You’re throwing just as hard. It’s just not going as fast.”
Said Santana: “I feel good. I’m very excited about this, finally having the opportunity to start spring training from the beginning and do all the drills and be part of the team.”