Johan Santana is three weeks into his offseason throwing program and has advanced to long-tossing from 110 feet, but the two-time Cy Young award winner’s status for Opening Day remains uncertain 16 months after shoulder surgery.
During a conference call yesterday Santana told reporters that his shoulder “feels fine” and “everything is fine,” but then added:
It’s going to be tough for me to guess [about being ready for Opening Day] because I don’t know how I’m going to feel in two months. I’m going to follow everything the way that they want me to do and we’ll see how it feels. I cannot tell you what’s going to happen in five, six weeks from now. I’ll be lying to you. I’ve got to go one day at a time.
All of which sounds reasonable, but doesn’t really jibe with the fact that Santana was on the verge of returning to the Mets last September before a setback caused him to delay his comeback and eventually shut things down instead. If he was truly close to being game ready back in September then he should have plenty of time to be game ready by spring training, let alone by Opening Day.
Clearly, though, either Santana was nowhere near where he should have been for a comeback to be a smart, realistic option in September or his setback was more significant than the Mets let on at the time. Whatever the case, for him to be merely long-tossing 16 months after surgery isn’t the timetable the Mets were hoping for when he went under the knife and Santana remains a huge question mark for 2012 while being owed $55 million for the next two seasons.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.