Johan Santana: It's all about health

Updated: February 12, 2013, 9:50 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Left-hander Johan Santana watched the New York Mets deal Carlos Beltran at the trading deadline two years ago, when Beltran was in the final year of his contract and the team had faded from contention. Now that fate could be awaiting Santana this summer, as the southpaw's six-year, $137.5 million contract enters its final season.

Still, Santana insisted Tuesday, what might happen is the furthest thing from his mind.

[+] EnlargeJohan Santana
Adam Rubin/ESPNJohan Santana finished last season on the DL after missing the entire 2011 season after surgery. This year, pitching a full season would mean a lot to him.

"I don't think about it," Santana said. "I'm more about my health than anything. I just want to make sure I play throughout the whole season and help as much as I can. What's going to happen in the future, I don't really know. I've just got to stay healthy and see what the future will bring.

"It's part of the game," he continued. "There's a lot of things in this game you can't control. That's one of them."

Reminded he has a no-trade clause that provides him some control, Santana added: "Still, those things are part of the game. We'll see where we're at and see how I feel and everything. I think it's more about health than anything. Time will tell. We'll see how everything goes."

Santana, 33, missed the entire 2011 season rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left (pitching) shoulder. He returned last season to have a solid first half, highlighted by tossing the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1.

In his next 10 starts after the no-hitter until he was shut down for the season with lower-back inflammation, Santana had an 8.27 ERA. He allowed six or more earned runs in each of his final five starts, beginning with a game against the Chicago Cubs in which Reed Johnson stepped on Santana's right ankle while the pitcher covered first base.

Santana said his innings would have been limited anyway last season because he was returning from the shoulder surgery, but the ankle and subsequent back issue forced the timing.

"I think the ankle changed the whole thing," Santana said about the quality of his season.

Manager Terry Collins agonized during Santana's June 1 no-hitter whether the southpaw should be allowed to complete the game, considering the shoulder procedure had been performed 21 months earlier. Collins relented and let Santana throw a career-high 134 pitches.

"It had nothing to do with it," Santana said about any link between that usage and the 10-start swoon that followed. "That's past. It was a great experience. It was great. But you can't go back and just point out that's what happened. Because that's not even close."

Collins has attributed Santana's second-half struggles last season to running out of gas more than any injury. Santana had rehabbed nearly the entire previous winter from the shoulder procedure, including starting to throw off a mound that January.

This winter, Santana had plenty of idle time to recuperate. He first plans to get on a mound in preparation for the season in the next few days.

Santana said he still wants to represent Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, as he did in 2006, before winning a Cy Young Award that season with the Minnesota Twins. Mets sources told ESPNNewYork.com they doubt Santana will participate.

Santana said he would not take part if the organization preferred.

Even more complicated, because Santana finished last season on the disabled list, a WBC committee would have to agree to insure the $31 million he is owed this season by the Mets, including the buyout of a 2014 vesting option. Santana said he has not even initiated that process at this point. There is no guarantee the WBC committee would agree to assume that financial risk anyway.

"That's something that I really wanted to do," Santana said about representing Venezuela. "We'll see how everything goes. A lot of things have to be in place in order for me to participate. I'm willing to represent my country and be a part of it. I already talked to [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] and Terry about it. We are putting a plan together, my throwing program, to prepare for it.

"But that doesn't mean I'm going to be in it. A lot of things have to go right. I have to talk in the next couple of days to [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and the Mets and see exactly what they want me to do. … As of right now, I don't know exactly what the whole deal is with insurance and all that. But if I have an opportunity to play, I'll be more than happy to."

Concluded Santana about 2012: "It ended up in a way that I didn't want it to, but at the same time I knew at that point I needed a rest. And they wanted me to rest. I was, over the offseason, trying to recover from everything, and I feel good right now."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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