Mets Spring Training Game 5

Johan Santana

He didn’t pitch in the game, but he pitched before the game without discomfort, which was big news. Earlier in the day, it was reported that Santana would be traveling to New York for an MRI due to elbow soreness and forearm tightness. After his 35-pitch bullpen session — when he reportedly was throwing “about 80%” — the trip was canceled.

There’s a blizzard here in the northeast, so not traveling to NYC makes sense. However, why in the world was Johan throwing a day before he was supposed to be getting an MRI? I hope I’m wrong, but this is like Ryan Church all over again.

John Maine

Clearly, neither Maine nor the Mets did anything to correct the flaw in John’s mechanics that caused his shoulder injury. He’s still carrying the ball back behind his shoulder, breaking his hands at his right hip, and in turn opening up too early and throwing the ball to a spot up and in to a RH hitter / up and away to a LH hitter. To spot the ball in any other place requires a significant adjustment in release point and/or arm angle. In other words, his command will again be inconsistent and he’ll continue to have problems finishing off hitters. All those two-strike foul balls are going to continue not because he doesn’t have an “out” pitch, as has been repeated ad nauseam, but because he can’t put the ball where he wants to, when he needs to.

J.J. Putz

Putz broke 89 MPH only once during his one inning outing, which was underwhelming. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since it was his first appearance of the spring. However, Putz is supposed to be a major power arm, a guy who should be throwing in the mid-90s. We saw neither that power heater nor the jaw-dropping deuce. I’m not panicking, since Billy Wagner would routinely be “only” in the low 90s in the spring through most of May before getting up to his usual 96-97. But there is that slight hint of concern that Putz was struggling to break 90 MPH.

Duaner Sanchez

If Putz’s velocity was a minor concern, then Duaner’s 85-MPH fastball was downright shocking. Like Putz though, it was Sanchez’s first appearance of the spring, so we can give him the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, he was throwing at speeds that resembled a hitter’s ideal BP session.

Soft Hands

Keith Hernandez said, “…you can’t teach soft hands or good hands. If you have bad hands, you’re stuck with them.”

I respectfully disagree. See Mattingly, Don. As a young buck in the early 1980s he was a bat without a position because of an iron glove that was glaring even when hidden in left field. Once he set his mind to playing first base, he became not only a Gold Glove winner but considered among the greatest fielding first basemen of all-time — ironically, his defensive skills were often compared to Keith’s.

I will give Keith this: it’s rare for a fielder to suddenly “discover” soft hands, especially once he’s reached his twenties. But the condition can be changed if the player is committed.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 March 3, 2009 at 10:03 am
    RE: Johan

    Granted, nobody ever wants to hear that their ace pitcher is experiencing anything at all wrong with his throwing arm…..and really, I’d be fine with sending him for an MRI. No harm there.

    However, from the beginning — while everyone on the board I post on was jumping off a bridge — this sounded more to me like “justification” for the Mets to keep Johan out of the WBC.

    Obviously, Venezuelan fans would be pretty upset to hear that “their guy” Johan wasn’t going to be allowed to pitch by the Mets.

    ……..Johan’s safeguarding against a possible “injury” — and will need a few weeks?

    Oh, okay… sense in getting all worked up about the Mets holding him back from the tourney.

    Maybe I’m giving the Mets too much credit…..that may very well be……but in the case of Johan Santana — their undisputable, undeniable, without a doubt, #1 investment for the next however many years?

    Even if they messed up, I’d still think that Johan has the brain to know when or when he shouldn’t be throwing.

    If Santana’s still experiencing stiffness next month? Color me concerned.

    Otherwise, this isn’t concerning me just yet….which is scary, since I’m typically the first to acknowledge the joke of an embarrassment that Met witch-doctors have become through the years.

  2. joe March 3, 2009 at 9:01 pm
    What concerns me is that Johan comes across as a guy who is an old-school grinder and tough competitor, who will rarely if ever complain and continue to take the ball even when not feeling his best. That said, the fact that he verbalized a discomfort leads me to believe that he really is hurting — and should be checked out. What if he says he’s “OK” out of a feeling of responsibility to the team and to fulfill his contract?
  3. Walnutz15 March 3, 2009 at 9:05 pm
    Only then will the Mets have learned nothing from the past…….I’m waiting this media “crap-storm” out.