MLB: Santana faces hitters for 1st time since surgery
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — New York Mets ace Johan Santana completed his last big test before pitching in a game, throwing two simulated innings Thursday.
Facing hitters for the first time since having surgery on his left elbow late last season, Santana threw 40 pitches.
Santana is scheduled to make his first start of the exhibition season on Tuesday at home against Houston.
“It felt really good because I had all the mechanics and everything working, so to have guys actually swinging a bat in a situation where I was throwing all my pitches like in a game, it was good,” Santana said. “I don’t feel anything in my arm, so that’s a good sign.”
The two-time Cy Young winner walked a batter in the first simulated inning Thursday, but especially was pleased to see Josh Thole, who is known as a good contact hitter, swing and miss at a couple of his sliders. Thole and fellow catcher Rod Barajas were the two batters Santana faced.
“They didn’t know what was coming, so it was good to see that action in my slider going down,” Santana said. As for his changeup, “I threw one to Barajas where he swung and missed, and that’s the thing they want to see.”
Santana said the surgery helped him find a better release point for his pitches, which will make him more effective on the mound.
“Now I am able to extend my arm and release the ball in front of me and be able to throw my slider,” Santana said. “It’s a big difference from last year. I am able to now throw my pitches and let everything go. Last year I wasn’t able to do that. It will help all my pitches because now I am able to hide the ball better and extend to throw the ball better.”
Santana was 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts last year, including 6-7 with a 4.02 from June 1 on as the bone chips in his left elbow started to bother him more. He threw from a mound for the first time during Mets’ minicamp in late January and has shown steady progress since reporting to spring training.