Santana gets nod to start for Mets in opener
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -- After a spring full of injury-related news, finally some relief for the New York Mets: Johan Santana will start on opening day.
The left-hander, returning from shoulder surgery performed in September 2010, met with manager Terry Collins in his office Sunday. Later, Collins announced that Santana was set to pitch at home against the Atlanta Braves.
"After we talked to Johan yesterday after he threw, I walked by him and he said to me at the end, `You've got your pitcher for Thursday,'" Collins said.
Santana made his last spring training start Monday against St. Louis and worked a brief bullpen session Saturday.
"It means a lot," he said. "It means that everything we've done from surgery to today has paid off. We worked hard, and I'm very happy."
"I'm happy to have the opportunity to start the season from Day One with the team. That's something I was really looking forward to," the two-time Cy Young winner said.
Santana was 0-1 with a 3.44 ERA in five exhibition starts.
"He said to me in the winter, `I came to New York to be the opening day starter. If I can do it, I'll be there.' He's ready to go," Collins said.
The 33-year-old Santana has been rehabbing the anterior capsule in his shoulder since the surgery that cut short his 2010 season. He pitched briefly in the minors last year.
Collins will have a built-in luxury that will help with easing Santana into the mix. Six of his first seven scheduled starts will include an extra day of rest simply because of the way New York's schedule unfolds.
Left fielder Jason Bay was eager to see Santana return, especially after the Mets lost shortstop Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins in free agency.
"(Johan) brings a lot of the same type of energy that Jose had brought. We obviously lost Jose and not having Johan around all year last year, so getting him back is getting the energy back," Bay said.
"It's almost like picking up another guy because you've missed him for the whole year. It's nice to have that back," Bay said.
Right-hander Dillon Gee said the club will immediately feel the impact of Santana's return.
"It's important to see him back," Gee said. "Everyone wanted to see Johan on opening day. The prestige of Johan on opening day is a benchmark."
Collins said R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Gee would round out the rotation in that order behind Santana.