Second Season with the Mets Could End Up Being Very Special for Santana

February 17, 2009

Leading up to the 2004 season, pitcher Johan Santana was set to begin his fifth year with the Minnesota Twins. He was used sparingly out of the bullpen through the 2000-02 seasons. Then in the following year, Santana transitioned from relief to the Twins’ starting rotation after spending the first four months of the season in the pen. The left-hander was given eighteen starts that year and finished with 158.1 innings pitched, an impressive 169 strikeouts, and a 12-4 won-lost record. Unfortunately, at season’s end, he was forced to undergo off-season surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

“In ’04, that was the toughest spring training,” Santana said during a recent Q and A with members of the NY media. “It was my arm; your leg is not as bad as your arm.”

What Santana failed to mention in the interview was that in 2004 he won the first of two unanimous Cy Young awards. The second was in 2006 also as a starting pitcher with the Twins. Now, with the Mets, Santana is again heading into the season coming off of post-season surgery in which he had to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The goal is to get him back to 100 percent but he made sure to mention that “it was going to take some time to build everything up.”

In that first Cy Young Award-winning season of 2004, Santana had a 2-4 record in his first twelve starts. However, he finished his last 15 starts with a 13-0 record and had a 1.21 earned run average during that stretch. At one point, he had a streak of more than 30 innings without giving up a single run.

It is widely known that Santana becomes a much better pitcher as the season progresses. During his final ten starts of last year, his first season as a Met, he went 7-0 with a 1.84 ERA. Two of those starts were complete game shutouts. In that ten game span, he averaged seven and a third innings pitched and 7.1 strikeouts a game.

The Venezuelan-born starter expressed that he was aiming for a strong start and a strong finish as he prepares for the opening of the 2009 season. For Mets fans, perhaps this could be the year in which the ace of their staff is able to replicate that first award-winning season and add a third Cy Young award to an already well-deserved trophy case.

Santana has said in the past, “Just make sure you just get better and better and better as the season goes. And start by start — and then just like that, everything happens.” Hopefully for the Mets, everything does happen just like that.

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