Johan Santana’s availability for the start of the season is in doubt, but he’s getting closer to making his spring debut.
ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are aiming for Santana to make his first start in a week, likely next Thursday against the Tigers. This means he would only get three starts to prepare himself for the start of the regular season, but Mets manager Terry Collins is more focused on the long-term than having him ready for Opening Day against the Padres.
“We’re not worried about April 1,” Collins said. “We’re worried about 30 starts.”
Santana has been trying to build arm strength over the past few weeks after taking it easy during the offseason. The veteran left-hander has thrown two light bullpens in recent days and will need to throw another before progressing to live batting practice. Assuming all goes well, he’ll then test himself in game action.
Rubin speculates that Santana may make his final two starts of the spring in minor league games so that the Mets could backdate him if he needs to begin the season on the disabled list. Jeremy Hefner would likely serve as a placeholder in the rotation in that case.
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.