Johan Santana is very close to starting his first major league game since September 2, 2010.
According to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com, Santana made it through a bullpen session this afternoon without any issues and is expected to be named as the Mets’ Opening Day starter tomorrow unless he reports any discomfort in his surgically-repaired shoulder.
Santana labored through a spring-high 88 pitches during his last start Monday against the Cardinals, but Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen was impressed by how he looked on the mound this afternoon.
“He was free and easy,” pitching coach Dan Warthen said about Saturday’s bullpen session, which included 39 warm-up pitches, then another 32 at game intensity. “The body didn’t ache. It hasn’t been the arm at any time. It’s been more the wear and tear on the body, getting it back in shape, and then being able to take the volume of pitches. Today he could have pitched very easily [in a game]. The body recovered really well yesterday.
Mets manager Terry Collins admitted that it would mean a lot to have Santana start Thursday’s season opener against the Braves, but he isn’t willing to push him if he needs a couple extra days to get ready.
Santana posted a 3.44 ERA and 13/7 K/BB ratio over 18 1/3 innings during Grapefruit League play. The Mets figure to have him on a pretty short leash initially, likely pulling him after 90 pitches or six innings.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.