Johan Santana is gearing up for the season

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If there is anything that makes me doubt Kyle Farnsworth’s chances as a starter it’s the article in today’s Daily News about Johan Santana. In it John Harper catches for the Mets’ ace as he pitches a simulated half-inning against the heart of the Phillies’ lineup.  After striking out the cardboard cutout that simulates Jimmy Rollins, he walks the silhouette of Chase Utley, bringing Ryan Howard to the plate:

Santana throws a fastball on the outside corner, a changeup down,
and then, as promised, bounces a slider just off the outside corner
that caroms off my arm, 15 feet away to my left. I scramble to retrieve the ball, happy that I got a piece of it, not
realizing until I turn to throw that Santana is staring me down.

“Utley’s at second,” he says. “What’d you think, I was going to throw (Howard) a cookie there? Now I’m in a tough spot.”

I know he’s kidding. Isn’t he? No smile this time. Santana is in
work mode. He takes these simulated games seriously because he takes a
thinking man’s approach with each hitter, watching the swings they
take, trying to decide when they might be sitting on his changeup.

“You have to outsmart hitters,” he says. “You have to have a game plan.”

It’s that outsmarting/game plan stuff that I can’t help but feel Farnsworth won’t quite be able to handle.

But back to Santana. I may have a healthy case of Mets derangement syndrome — hey, did you hear that the bonds used to finance Citi Field are now classified as “junk?” Really! — but I have a serious man-crush on Johan Santana and would love nothing more than to see him come back and have a dominant season. As of now he’s throwing freely and easily at about 88 m.p.h., working his way slowly up to full velocity.

The only thing I don’t like about what I read in the article is that he didn’t bounce one in the dirt to cup-check Harper, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.