Johan Santana isn’t sure when he’ll be able to pitch

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It’s already a given that Johan Santana will begin the season on the disabled list, but his comments to reporters this morning indicate that the Mets will have to make due without him for quite a while.

Yikes. Santana has been trying to build strength in his surgically-repaired shoulder for most of camp, but he hasn’t thrown off a mound since March 6. And given that his shoulder still isn’t feeling great, the Mets aren’t about to push him. He’ll need a handful of weeks to get ready even after he starts to throw from a mound, so he isn’t anywhere close to pitching in a game, let alone in a major league setting. Jeremy Hefner is expected to take his place in the rotation at the start of the season and it sounds like he might get an extended opportunity.

Santana, 33, is owed $25 million this season while his $25 million club option for 2014 includes a $5.5 million buyout.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉