Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

It's All about the Pitching

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

It's All about the Pitching

Article excerpt

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - When measuring Johan Santana's progress by raw numbers, examine these telling statistics from his postgame interview:

* Number of times he mentioned his heel: 4.

* Number of times he mentioned his foot: 2.

* Number of times he mentioned his shoulder: 1.

The body part that has kept him off a big-league mound for 18 months is incrementally fading as a news hook. Fewer reporters are watching Santana when he throws his bullpen sessions. Fewer photographers crowd behind home plate when he takes the mound for games.

Three starts into his spring, this is becoming less about the tendons, ligaments and joints that hold Santana's surgically repaired left shoulder in place. It is becoming more about Santana's escalating pitch count and the abilities of that major league arm.

"I'm getting back to it," Santana said after throwing 65 pitches in the Mets' 9-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Digital Domain Park. "Still have a little way to go, but I'm feeling good. I'm very happy that I'm able to now, for the third time, go out there without any problems and be able to recover from one start to another."

In his 2 2/3 innings of work, Santana allowed five runs - four of them earned - showing Mets fans a bit of the good and the bad.

The good: His velocity was impressive. Santana hit 90 four times in the first inning, four more in the second and then three times in the third. His fastball peaked at 91, nestling in a consistent zone of 88 mph and above.

"As far as velocity, you still have room for improvement," Santana said. "I don't know what that will be. But as long as I feel good when I throw my fastball, that's what I'm looking for."

The bad: He threw a lot of pitches during those 2 2/3 innings. Despite starting 12 of the 14 hitters he faced with strikes, Santana turned in a lot of long counts. In the second inning, he pinned Tigers left fielder Delmon Young in an 0-2 hole. Five pitches later, Young was standing on second with a double. …

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