When manager Terry Collins reported to spring training, he singled out four or five players to whom the Mets could not afford injury.
Chief among them was left-hander Johan Santana, who not only suffered injury but may have thrown his last major league pitch. Santana re-tore the anterior capsule in his left shoulder, the Mets announced
Thursday, and he decided days later to undergo surgery to repair it.
"You do something for so long and you're so successful at it, and to have a setback like this, it kind of hits everybody in here hard, just because of the kind of teammate he's been," Mets third baseman David Wright said.
It is the same injury that Santana suffered in September 2010, when he underwent surgery and missed 19 months. Santana returned to pitch a successful first half of the 2012 season, going 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA through his June 1 no-hitter. But he was not the same pitcher after that, going 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA over his last 10 outings.
Collins worried at the time that he might have contributed to Santana's shoulder damage by allowing him to throw 134 pitches in his no-hitter, at the start of his third month back from surgery. But Santana may have put himself even more at risk this spring.
Rather than throw during the offseason, Santana decided to rest completely from August -- when the Mets placed him on the disabled list with lower back inflammation -- until February. He arrived at camp and immediately began throwing off a mound, taking regular bullpen sessions like any other pitcher. The Mets claimed he was healthy.
But after Santana's second bullpen session, the Mets backed off his program due to what they termed "left shoulder weakness." That started a he-said, she-said tiff with general manager Sandy Alderson, who openly criticized his pitcher for not arriving to camp in shape.
To prove that he was healthy, Santana surprised everyone by pitching an unscheduled mound session the next day, which also could have contributed to his issues.
Alderson said that the Mets "just don't know when this occurred," which is somewhat beside the point. What matters is the Mets will again be without Santana for the entire season, and possibly the rest of his career. Santana's last guaranteed contract year expires after this season, and the Mets will buy out his $25 million option for 2014 after that.