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Friday, March 16, 2012
Ugly line, but promising velo for Santana

By Adam Rubin

The line from Johan Santana's third Grapefruit League start did not end up pretty: 2.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.

Still, there were continued promising signs as Santana faced the Tigers on Friday afternoon at Digital Domain Park. For one thing, Santana continues to settle into an every-five-days pitching routine. Secondly, his velocity continues to creep higher.

Santana sat at about 89 mph with his fastball against Detroit, hit 90 several times and topped out at 91. On his 65th and final pitch, a two-run single by Delmon Young, Santana reached that 91 mph mark. Santana mostly had been in the 87-89 mph range in previous starts.

"I was able to throw some fastballs with more intensity this time," Santana said. "And I'm feeling good. It's a process. And I'm building up."

A pair of the runs charged to Santana scored after Bobby Parnell replaced him, although it was hardly Parnell's fault. He coaxed a pair of groundballs -- the first of which Ronny Cedeno did not have enough range to corral at shortstop, the second of which Daniel Murphy played into an error at second base.

Afterward, Santana noted his control was not in regular-season form. He said he had unintended cutting action on his fastball -- movement he does not typically have. He partly attributed his control struggles to a soft mound, which he said caused him to land on his right heel during his delivery as opposed to more flatly where he could be more comfortable.

"But, again, those are part of the game. You have to adjust to it right away, especially when you have a good team out there and they're swinging and challenging," Santana said.

It was Santana's second straight outing going 2 2/3 innings, but he did up his pitch count by 23 from the previous outing. Pitching coach Dan Warthen likes pitchers to jump in 15-pitch increments during spring training, so Santana could be at 80 pitches in five days.

Santana had gone four innings in a fall instructional league game. But, by his recollection, this was his first time exceeding 60 pitches since before the Sept. 14, 2010 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.

"I feel fine," Santana said. "It was a tough day. It was a challenge out there. These guys were swinging. I tried to locate some pitches that I wasn't able to. But that's what we're here for. ... I wasn't consistent throwing my fastball for strikes. That's something you work on.

"To me, it is important to know how I feel and how I recover from one start to another. And even though this time was only 2 2/3 innings, it was 60 pitches. And that's an improvement for me. It makes me feel really good that I'm able to throw now over 50, 60 pitches with no problem."