The good news, we suppose, is that judging by everything the Mets are saying about Johan Santana, it seems they’re smart enough not to try to rush him back until he’s truly ready to pitch again. For example, here’s Sandy Alderson, who said yesterday that Santana had experienced soreness in his shoulder and had to stop pitching off a mound a week and a half ago: “The thing I want to emphasize is that we are not here to push the pace.” And here’s Terry Collins, about how Santana will return when he feels right: “We can only hope that it comes, and it comes in July maybe, or August or September. But we hope he comes back, and if not, if he’s ready next spring, we’re going into spring training with a pretty good pitcher on our team.”
So that, at least, is encouraging — that taken at their word, the Mets plan to take their time with Santana. After all, following last night’s loss to Pittsburgh, the Mets are two games under .500 and in fourth place in the National League East. Meanwhile, Santana is under contract through 2013 (with a club option for 2014). Still, this latest bit of news means that Mets’ ace — who’s been out since last September — might not return until August. (You’ll recall that the update prior to this one had Santana ready sometime in late July.) Perhaps this should all go without saying, that the Mets wouldn’t try to rush him along. But considering how much they have invested in Santana — and how unlikely they are to make the playoffs this season (current odds: 1.7 percent) — it’s still nice to hear.
As Alderson explains it, Santana needs to get to where he’d be at the beginning of spring training; in the GM’s words, “We are not yet at the equivalent of the 14th of February.” (He’ll need to throw off a mound two or three more times without discomfort before he gets there, at which point he’ll begin his “spring training,” which could last six weeks.) Santana’s “February 14” will come eventually. But as much as the Mets would like to sell tickets for as many Johan Santana starts as possible, they’d be wise not rush him along.