Johan Santana is “making strides” with his throwing program

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Johan Santana was originally scheduled to make his spring debut on March 2, but the Mets announced last week that it will be pushed back due to a conditioning issue related to his throwing. While he hasn’t returned to mound-work since, the Mets are pleased with the progress he has made in recent days.

According to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, Mets manager Terry Collins said earlier today that Santana has looked stronger in recent sessions off flat ground.

“I told him already today: He looked better today than he did five days ago,” Collins said. “I think the long-toss program is making strides.”

The Mets said last week that Santana’s issue wasn’t structural, so it appears his shoulder is fine. Spring training is longer than usual this year because of the World Baseball Classic, so the hope is that he’ll have enough time to get ready for the season as long as he makes his debut by March 10 or 11.

Santana, who turns 34 next month, posted a 4.85 ERA and 111/39 K/BB ratio over 117 innings last season prior to being shut down. He’s owed $25.5 million this season while his contract includes a $5.5 million buyout on a $25 million option for 2014.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.