Johan Santana sets hopeful tone for 2012 season

Making his first start for the New York Mets since September, 2010, Johan Santana allowed just two hits and two walks, while striking out five over five scoreless innings.

After allowing a Martin Prado single in the top of the first, Santana retired the next 12 batters he faced before a Matt Diaz double ended the streak in the fifth.  Santana who had thrown an economical 68 pitches to that point, threw eight of the next nine pitches out of the zone allowing back-to-back walks — which included a five pitch walk to Brave starter Tommy Hanson — to load the bases. After a brief mound visit from pitching coach Dan Werthan, Santana showed everyone just how competitive and important he really is to this club. Santana fell behind in the count, 3-1 to Michael Bourn, but willed his way by enducing an inning ending comebacker to the mound; prompted me to tweet the following from the Shea Bridge out in right field:

Citi faithful rise to their feet and Johan answers the bell inducing a ground out to end the inning
vinny cartiglia

Following the game, Santana told reporters:

I’m happy. Finally I have an opportunity to go out there in a game that counts. It was very important. I’m still working to be what I used to be. The way I’ve approached everything is to try to be careful but, at the same time, try not to think about it.”

Mets fans weren’t the only ones impressed with Johan’s performance.  Braves, Chipper Jones told Mike Puma of the New York Post, as long as the Mets have a healthy Santana they have hope.

Photo by Michael G. Baron

As well they should. How many times over the last couple years have the Marlins’ success hinged upon Josh Johnson? I think you’ll see it again this year. If that guy can go out and make 35, 36 starts the Marlins are going to be pretty good. The same thing with Johan.

If he goes out and make his scheduled starts, and pitches like he pitched [yesterday], you’ve always got hope. As long as you’ve got that horse at the front end, the other guys feed off of him. If they feed off of what he did [yesterday], the Mets are going to win ballgames. That lineup is solid.’’

Photo by Michael G. Baron

The 2012 version of Johan Santana may not throw a blazing fastball, but the one similar characteristic you can never take away is the will to compete; and during that fifth inning at-bat versus Bourn, the left-hander showed that his competitive nature can will him through tough situations.  When he absolutely needed it, he dug down deep and made a perfect pitch. While I had been highly pessimistic about Santana heading into the season I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hope after  watching him work his way in and out of trouble in the fifth, answering the call of the fans on Thursday afternoon. And so, I am now starting to feel VERY good about the Mets ‘ace’ and the hope his presence provides Mets fans in 2012.

I think Terry Collins said it best following the game, “”He’s by far one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around, and that’s why I said if anyone could come back from his injury, he could.”




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