What, you were thinking maybe Dillon Gee?
Johan Santana is the best pitcher on the Mets, even in a close to healthy season, but his health concerns are the stuff of legend around the Mets universe. The Mets have three days off in the first fifteen days of the season and, by my calculations, won’t need a 5th starter until April 24th, the opening game of a series against the Marlins at Citi Field.
I think it would behoove the Mets to leave Johan in extended Spring Training to keep working on his arm strength and any unforeseen obstacles on his path to recovery. I know it might seem attractive to start Johan immediately against the division to open the season, but with so much riding on his left arm, is it the smartest move? Why subject Johan to the coldest weather of the season as early as six weeks from now, when his long term health would benefit from waiting just three more weeks?
There are plenty of people expecting nothing out of Johan, and any contributions would be icing on the cake, so missing him for three weeks would seem a small price to pay if the payoff was that Johan was better equipped to take the ball every fifth day down the stretch. This would also strengthen the contingency plan, seeing as Johan would potentially need a blow further down the line should he miss the first three weeks. It would be different if, say, this was Johan’s walk year and the Mets could try and squeeze everything out of Johan they possibly can, but Johan is under contract for two more years after 2012.
Should Johan occupy that “fifth” starter role and start on April 24th, he would start again on April 29th, but the Mets then have two off days in the next twelve days, allowing him the pitch his next two starts on an extra day’s rest. Johan wouldn’t pitch three straight games on regular rest until May 15th, 20th, and 25th. Investing three extra weeks in his recovery could pay huge dividends over the course of the full season.
What do you think?