A lot is riding on the left elbow of Johan Santana. It’s not an exaggeration to say the Mets entire 2009 season is hanging in the balance. The health of the crafty ace is the linchpin to the clubs success this year.
He was by far the most consistent Mets starter last season, nearly willing the team into the playoffs and his absence, for any significant period of time could derail the Amazin's train before the club breaks camp.
The news hasn't been encouraging. There's no reason to panic at this early point, but reports from Port St. Lucie are concerning.
After Santana was scratched from pitching in a 'B' game against Italy's national team because of elbow tightness, the Mets revealed he would also miss his first spring training tune-up against St. Louis on Tuesday. Today the club further alarmed fans by saying he won't appear in games for at least two weeks while he tries to work out the soreness.
Santana has initially been diagnosed with an irritated triceps tendon, a minor inconvenience considering his massive importance to the team's success. The club hasn't shelved their ace for significant time yet—he will throw a bullpen session tomorrow and then be reevaluated, but should Santana miss significant time to begin the year, the Mets could certainly stumble out of the gate while losing important ground in the division.
Santana was the rock of the club last season and nearly forced his team into the playoffs after throwing a complete game gem on the second-to-last day of the season against Florida.
He led the National League in both ERA and innings pitched last year, and if not for a shaky bullpen should have won twenty games. If he can repeat this performance the Mets will be a contender throughout the year. But should his injury persist and create instability at the top of the rotation the club could be in for a hugely disappointing year.
His success in ’09 will determine the team’s fortunes over the summer and with high expectations coming into the year, so much is riding on this crucial elbow. The team has been built around pitching and without their unqualified ace at the top the rotation looks much less formidable.
As the club comes off two straight seasons of late September collapse the Mets surely shun the prospect of opening their glitzy, new ballpark without their best pitcher on the mound.
Santana is still planning to start opening day, April 6th against the Reds while putting a positive spin on the injury, but the club and fans wait, holding their collective breath for the health of the ace lefty.