With the news that the Mets have shutdown Johan Santana’s rehab for the rest of the year, all they can do now is hope and pray that when their $24 million dollar a year ace shows up in Port St. Lucie next Spring, he will be ready to get on a mound and resemble something close to what he was before his 2010 shoulder surgery.
Santana was supposed to come back some time in late June or early July, but his return kept being pushed back throughout the year until the Mets season finally ran out of weeks. Santana never made it back to the majors and it’s still far from certain that he will start the season on time. Now 14 months removed from surgery, Santana and the Mets agreed it was best to shutdown all activity and simply rest his surgically-repaired shoulder until Spring Training.
One pitcher who can relate to what the Mets ace is going through is Chien-Ming Wang who had the same procedure on his right shoulder and missed two full years until returning to the majors for the Nationals on July 29 to face the Mets. I bet plenty of Mets brass was watching Wang on that night.
To make a long story short, Wang’s return was better than many expected and the big right-hander actually posted numbers that were remarkably close to his career norms. I charted his career below.
A quick look at his 2011 season shows that Wang actually posted a better ERA and WHIP than his career marks and even bested his 2008 season. Small sample size, yes, but if Santana had pulled off these same results our tongues would be hanging out of our mouths.
The velocity on Wang’s signature sinker was no longer 95 mph, but he was throwing in the low-nineties with remarkable consistency and he kept getting stronger and better the more he pitched. In his first seven starts, Wang walked 13 batters and struck out just nine over the course of 38 2/3 innings, but in his last four starts he struck out 16 and walked none in 23 2/3 innings.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson loved what he saw and referred to Wang as a keeper.
“As far as I’m concerned, ever since he’s started throwing again, he’s a keeper. I’ve had that thinking all along. I was amazed at how he was throwing from Day One. I’ve seen improvement every step of the way. The main thing is that he’s starting to trust that he’s healthy. He’s throwing more quality pitches … and also in his demeanor. I think he’s getting more confidence that it’s going to hold up.”
Wang will be a free agent this offseason, and the former Yankee ace who once hurled back to back 19-win seasons in 2006-2007, will surely garner some attention this Winter.
Considering the still financially-strapped Mets are now reduced to sifting through reclamation projects and injury risks to fill their roster for yet another offseason, Wang would seem like a good fit.
Truth be told, I’d rather take my chances with Wang rather than re-signing Chris Young who is coming off shoulder surgery and has a long rehab ahead of him.
There’s murmurings of Young being re-signed even though he just had the same procedure as Santana and Wang before him.
I don’t think I can take another year of “he”ll be back in June”, “he’ll be back in July”, he’ll be back after the All Star Break”, or “he’ll be back in August”. Can you?
I’d rather take my chances with someone who actually came back from shoulder surgery and proved for two months that he could get major league hitters out.