Johan Santana: How a Full Spring Training Would Impact His 2012 Season

Shale BriskinContributor IIIJanuary 11, 2012

NEW YORK - JULY 06:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds on July 6, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The 2012 season is coming closer and closer for the New York Mets, who are widely expected to finish last in the National League East this season.

However, to the Mets' credit, they still have a few stars that can at least deliver the team some wins. The Mets' offense is currently built around third baseman David Wright, first baseman Ike Davis and left fielder Jason Bay. The Mets' starting rotation, though, will still be led by two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, who will be expected to resurrect the Mets' pitching staff in 2012.

Santana missed the entire 2011 season while recovering from shoulder surgery. He spent most of the year rehabilitating, and despite periodical rumors that he was going to return at the end of the season, Santana did not throw one pitch in a Mets or minor league game.

Ever since he joined the Mets after a trade prior to the 2008 season, Santana's Mets' years have been a roller coaster. He had an amazing finish to his 2008 season—he finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting that year to Tim Lincecum.

However, after that, Santana has pitched relatively well, but has struggled with various shoulder and elbow injuries for the past three seasons.

Santana missed the last month of the 2009 season due to bone chips found in his elbow. He then missed the last month of the 2010 season with a strained pectoral muscle, which was later determined to be a shoulder injury. The recovery process for shoulder surgery lasted longer for Santana than many would have anticipated.

Now that spring training is only weeks away, it is imperative that Santana pitches a full spring training in order to prepare himself for the workload he will have during the regular season. A lot of unknowns could occur this year for Santana, though.

Despite having a healthier left arm, he may have lost some velocity now that he is a year older. If Santana does not have the same velocity he once had, he will have to rely more and more on his command to get him through his starts.

Again, Santana has not pitched in a real game of any kind for over a year now. Thus, he needs to make a good number of starts during spring training in order to get used to major league hitters again.

Of course, this does not mean that Santana should pitch two or three times a week with a very rigorous routine, because a blown out arm is the last thing the Mets need right now. With this being said, Santana should make his regular spring training starts, but at the same time, he should not be overworked so that he does not blow out his arm or get fatigued later in the season.

Despite being older and coming off surgery, a 12-15 win season is what will be expected of Santana. While 200 innings would be very nice, even 180-190 would be sufficient so that Santana does not get overworked.

In other words, if Santana pitches a lot of innings in the early portion of the season, this could lead to potential injuries and fatigue for him in the last month or two.

Nonetheless, if Santana is too cautious during spring training, he may not pitch enough to really feel comfortable with facing major league hitters for the long regular season. This could affect his performance if certain mechanics for one are not corrected.

As far as injuries go, a full spring training for Santana would be great for the Mets so that they do not have to worry too much about him being healthy for the whole season. The Mets currently have plenty of other issues to deal with as well.

If Santana stays healthy and pitches well, this will help the Mets a lot so that they can focus on other pressing issues surrounding the team.

All in all, a full spring training from Johan Santana would benefit both him and the Mets greatly as long as he stays healthy, pitches well and does not get overworked prior to the regular season.