Johan Santana is attempting another comeback bid.
While that is newsworthy all by itself, there’s even more to the story that peeks this blogger’s interest.
It’s looking like Santana’s comeback could involve a reunion with the Minnesota Twins.
That’s the scoop according to Darren Wolfson:
The left-hander is slated to pitch three innings and 45-50 pitches Tuesday evening in a Venezuelan Winter League game for Magallanes against the Tigres de Aragua.
If things go well, Santana can expect a number of minor league offers from teams hoping to catch lightning in a bottle and extract whatever magic is left in Santana’s left arm.
As it currently stands, Santana, 35, hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues since August 17, 2012 for the New York Mets.
That season, Santana was coming back from a shoulder capsule surgery injury that had cost him the latter half of 2010 and all of the 2011 campaign.
Given the severity of the injury, many weren’t sure he’d ever make it back at all, but he returned to the mound in April 2012 and – despite diminished velocity – he looked every bit like his old self on the hill.
Santana memorably threw a 134-pitch no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1 of that year. After that game, Santana stood at 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA and was allowing hitters to post a meager .200/.262/.306 batting line against him.
Unfortunately, that magical no-hitter – the only one in Mets history – was when the wheels started to come off for Santana.
Over Santana’s next ten starts he went 3-7 and was torched for an 8.27 ERA and allowed a .327/.377/.587 batting line to opposing hitters.
…and then he was done.
The Mets shut him down in mid-August with lower back inflammation.
As many suspected when he was shut down, the injury later proved to be far more serious than just “lower back inflammation.” Santana eventually missed the entire 2013 season – signaling the end of his stint with New York – while rehabbing following a second shoulder capsule surgery.
Santana was determined to make it back to the big leagues and signed on with the Baltimore Orioles in March of last season.
Santana was making progressing before he tore his left Achilles tendon last summer during an extended spring training start, ending his comeback bid.
Once again, the odds were stacked against Santana and once again, he’s looking to defy the odds with another comeback bid.
According to Santana’s agent, Peter Greenberg of the Legancy Agency, the lefty got his fastball up between 86 and 89 mph in a recent simulated game and is expecting to sign with a team before spring training:
“Johan wants to go out on his own terms,” Greenberg said. “He doesn’t want to go out because an injury put him out. He’s worked very hard and kept himself in shape, and he’s never thought about retiring.
“It’s not about the money or anything like that. He’s said he wants to draw his own ending. He wants to go out on his own terms. He’s told me, ‘I want to add to my legacy.’ I think anybody who knows him is going to bet on him.”
It’s tough to imagine a 35-year-old who can’t hit 90 mph – and is coming off of two major shoulder surgeries – making much of an impact, but as a long-time fan of Santana, it’s hard not to root for the guy.
Prior to his first shoulder capsule surgery, Santana was one of the game’s best pitchers from 2002 to 2010 when he starred for the Twins and Mets.
In that time, Santana won two – should have been three – Cy Young Awards, made four All-Star teams, and won 130 games with a 2.90 ERA, 1.076 WHIP, and a 3.90 K/BB ratio while averaging nearly 200 innings and 200 strike outs per season.
Here’s hoping Santana makes it all the way back, even if it’s not in Minnesota, and gets to go out on his own terms.