Johan Santana on return timetable: “Tough for me to guess”

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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.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.