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.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.