Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Johan's Back!

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Johan's Back!

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - Everyone was treating those diminished Citi Field fences as an off-season acquisition, as prized a piece of the puzzle as the three relievers who signed with the Mets in December.

But on an afternoon when Johan Santana resuscitated his professional life and David Wright offered a glimpse of the lightning left in his bat, it was the bullpen - not those shallow fences - that allowed the Mets to walk away winners.

Four relievers cleaned Santana's leftovers, as the Mets survived a taut opening day chess match with the Atlanta Braves, 1-0, Thursday afternoon. A season after its bullpen dripped like a busted faucet, Ramon Ramirez, Tim Byrdak, Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco put up four spotless innings of relief to give New York its 33rd victory in 51 openers.

"Our guys we went out and got last year, they made [Mets general manager] Sandy [Alderson] look pretty good today," said Mets manager Terry Collins.

The story line took shape after Santana exited, his five-inning, 84-pitch effort a portrait in perseverance. Nineteen months after career-threatening surgery on his left shoulder, Santana courted trouble only once - in the fifth - when he walked No. 8 hitter Tyler Pastornicky and pitcher Tommy Hanson to load the bases. Up next: Michael Bourn.

Santana missed with his first pitch to Bourn, bounced his second pitch and missed again with his fourth pitch. Staring at a 3-1 count, one errant fastball away from walking home a run, Santana settled. A fastball made it 3-and-2.

"He just doesn't give in to anybody," Collins said.

The next pitch - the final pitch of Santana's afternoon - bounced right back to him, almost as if he had a magnet cloaked inside his glove. His throw to Ike Davis sailed high, but Davis corralled it and stepped on first to pull the curtain on both the threat and Santana's first outing of 2012.

"He is, by far, one of the greatest competitors I've ever been around," Collins said. …

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