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.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.