Johan Santana

Johan Santana is struggling since his no-hitter

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Did the 134 pitches take a toll? After getting lit up by the Yankees last week, Johan Santana gave up four runs in five-plus innings Thursday versus the Rays in his second start since his no-hitter.

The 134 pitches Santana threw in shutting down the Cardinals were a career high for the left-hander, who was handled carefully during the first two months in his first season back from shoulder surgery. Pitching on six days’ rest last Friday, he gave up six runs and four homers in five innings in a loss to the Yankees. Today, working on five days’ rest, he got a win, but he allowed four runs in five-plus innings.

It actually should have been worse. Santana loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, giving up a single to Hideki Matsui, a double to Ben Zobrist and a walk to Matt Joyce. Jon Rauch took over and managed to strand all three runners by getting two strikeouts and then a groundout.

Santana threw just 51 of his 95 pitches for strikes in this one. He issued four walks, his second highest total of the season (he walked five in the no-hitter).

Santana’s ERA has jumped from 2.38 to 3.23 since the no-no and would be higher if not for Rauch’s effort. The Mets have to be hoping its an aberration, not a trend. Santana and R.A. Dickey have been an outstanding one-two punch so far, but Santana needs to return to May form to keep that up.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.