Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Mets morning briefing 3.7.12
By Adam Rubin
The Mets head to Jupiter on Wednesday to see the new-look Miami Marlins. However, Jose Reyes will not be there. He played Tuesday night at the Marlins' new ballpark in Miami, against the University of Miami. And he's staying down there for another game tonight, against Florida International University.
Wednesday's news reports:
• Johan Santana had a solid 2012 Grapefruit League debut, limiting the St. Louis Cardinals to one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings. Santana's fastball mostly sat at 87-88 mph, and he threw a devastating changeup to Yadier Molina. The big question will be whether Santana can now pitch on a regular five-day schedule. The next test: Can Santana throws a between-starts bullpen session on Thursday (or maybe Friday) to set up his second exhibition start, against the Marlins on Sunday in Port St. Lucie?
Watch video of Santana discussing his outing here.
ESPN Stats & Information evaluated Santana's performance based on video-review data from Inside Edge. They wrote in part:
Santana threw 23 fastballs, ranging from 86 to 89 mph, and averaging 87. In 2010, Santana’s fastball averaged just more than 89 mph. Santana threw 15 of those 23 fastballs for strikes, including eight of nine to left-handed hitters. Santana's other six pitches were four changeups and two sliders. He threw two of his six offspeed pitches for strikes. He typically threw those pitches for strikes about two-thirds of the time in 2009 and '10.
Columnist Joel Sherman in the Post provides this caveat to Santana's positive day:
Now the public service in which we offer context. Where we note that within the euphoria, even the Mets know this was merely a hurdle in a long race of hurdles. Before a pitch was delivered yesterday, Collins had said the bigger deal would come tomorrow when Santana is slated for a normal between-starts bullpen. And Santana himself acknowledged, "That will be the key -- the next couple of days, trying to throw my bullpen and see if I'll be ready for my next start." The simple acts cannot be downplayed. After all, Santana was a calling card all last summer that never arrived. Twice he was shut down after minor-league rehab starts because his surgically repaired left shoulder did not respond.
Terry Collins has noted that five of Santana's first six regular-season starts would be on an extra day of rest without juggling the rotation, since the Mets have team off-days in April. However, Collins told Sherman, the manager already has discussed with pitching coach Dan Warthen using a spot starter at Colorado on April 28 and holding back the southpaw a day, to make sure every early start comes with an extra day of rest.
Columnist Bob Klapisch in the Record offers a similar reminder in noting that Santana's ability to throw a between-starts bullpen session Thursday is the next hurdle. Writes Klapisch:
That's the window the Mets are monitoring: the 48 hours during which lactic acid builds up in the muscles. Even perfectly healthy pitchers pay the surcharge, experiencing stiffness behind the throwing shoulder and on the fleshy side of the elbow. That's why bullpen sessions always are scheduled for exactly two days after the last start, three days before the next one, to break down the lactic acid and rebuild muscle tissue. In Santana's case, the Mets will want to know if his shoulder capsule, which was cut into deeply by surgeons 18 months ago, experiences even the slightest twinge. Santana himself said, "The key will be the next couple of days." A setback doesn't necessarily have to manifest as a searing line of pain, either. It could be as subtle as the ball feeling heavier while Santana plays long-toss, the sensation that his arm is a little slower or an overall fatigue that would be enough of a red flag for the Mets to push back his next start.
Columnist John Harper in the Daily News notes that the differential in speed between Santana's fastball (87-88 mph on Tuesday) and changeup (79-81 mph) should be enough during the regular season, assuming Santana can add an extra 1 or 2 mph of oomph to his fastball during spring training, as most pitchers do. Writes Harper:
The velocity matters for Santana, largely because he needs separation from his signature changeup, which ranged from 78 to 81 mph. "As long as he locates his changeup, and keeps it down," said one scout in attendance, "he can win with the stuff he had today. He just can't get away with hanging the change, the way he could when he was throwing 94." Those days were gone long before Santana hurt his shoulder in 2010. He hasn't thrown 94 since he was pitching for the Twins five or six years ago, and, in truth, his velocity on Tuesday wasn't far at all from where he had been in 2009 and '10 for the Mets. Still, adding a little velocity as he continues his comeback, and pitching closer to 89-90 than 87-88, likely would make a significant difference. We'll see if that happens.
Read more on Santana's outing in the Journal, Post, Star-Ledger, Record, Daily News and Newsday.
• Agent Scott Boras texted Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon to clarify remarks from the agent that appeared in the Times. Boras told ESPNNewYork.com as well as Wilpon that when he said it was the ethical mandate of a large-market team to spend money or the owner should forfeit the team, he was speaking generally and not specifically about the Mets.
Earlier in the day, Sandy Alderson had responded to Boras' remarks, saying the Mets lost money and their primary obligation is to financially stabilize their franchise.
• Pedro Beato was pulled from Tuesday's home Grapefruit League game with shoulder stiffness and tightness.
• David Wright will not appear in an exhibition game until at least next week, Collins said. Still, the manager added, Wright had a good day in the weight room Tuesday. Read more in Newsday and the Star-Ledger.
• The Mets won one and lost one in split-squad games Tuesday. R.A. Dickey retired all six batters he faced while working after Santana. 2011 first-round pick Brandon Nimmo, borrowed from minor league camp for the game against the St. Louis Cardinals, walked in his first career Grapefruit League at-bat. The 18-year-old outfielder was so enthusiastic, Collins said Nimmo raced to the third-base line to greet D.J. Carrasco after the reliever completed an inning. Nimmo also marveled at the size of Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday after seeing him in person for the first time.
Nimmo overall had an eye-opening experience, according to Andrew Keh in the Times. Writes Keh:
He seemed particularly impressed by one item in the major league spread, a dish of baked bell peppers stuffed with beef and rice. "I never saw those in the minor league side," Nimmo said, laughing. "There was more variety. I definitely enjoyed that."
• Anthony Destefano in Newsday underscores that the eventual judgment of as much as $83 million that U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff plans to give the trustee trying to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme is spread among many of Fred Wilpon's family members, businesses and charities. The Mets are only on the hook for a maximum of $1.6 million to $1.7 million of that amount.
• Scott Hairston (strained left oblique), who received a cortisone shot on Monday, told the Record's Mike Kerwick he will be idle for two weeks and is aiming to play in Grapefruit League games the final week of spring training. That leaves little wiggle room, and suggests Hairston very well could open the season on the disabled list. Hairston landed on the DL on Aug. 26 with a strain of the same muscle and did not return last season. Unless the Mets look for outside help late in camp, Vinny Rottino might be the best righty-hitting alternative for backup outfielder. Adam Loewen and Mike Baxter are currently the candidates for backup lefty-hitting outfielder, although the organization could look to upgrade there as well. If Hairston cannot open the season, the Mets would need a backup center fielder for Andres Torres. Of the players mentioned above, only Loewen is capable of playing there.
TRIVIA: Who started at third base for the Mets the game before Wright made his major league debut?
(Tuesday's answer: Mike Nickeas' father Mark played professional soccer in the North American Soccer League for the Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes.)