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Concepcion makes trip to see Santana

Concepcion makes trip to see Santana

MIAMI -- Johan Santana's drawing power reached his native Venezuela.

One of the most popular players to come out of Venezuela, Dave Concepcion, flew in from his native country specifically to see Santana's debut as a Met. Andres Galarraga was also in attendance.

The former shortstop on Cincinnati's Big Red Machine of the 1970s, Concepcion decided to make the trip to Miami to see Santana a few weeks ago. Once it became evident that Santana was going to face the Marlins in the season opener at Dolphin Stadium, Concepcion booked his flight to Florida.

Santana came as advertised in the Mets' 7-2 win on Monday.

"I believe he has a good opportunity because he is playing in the National League," Concepcion said. "You don't play the same way in the National League as the American League. In the National League, you have to hit, you have to bunt. You have to run. I guess he can pitch better because he has to pitch only to eight good hitters."

A former All-Star and Cy Young Award winner with the Twins, Santana stepped up like a true ace on Opening Day. The left-hander gave up two runs on three hits in seven innings, striking out eight while walking two.

Sitting behind home plate, shaded toward the first-base dugout, on Monday, Concepcion noted the only defect in Santana was his velocity.

For the most part, the stadium radar gun was clocking Santana's fastball at 90 mph. On the FSN Florida broadcast, however, it would flash at 92 mph.

"Today he didn't throw as hard as he used to," Concepcion said. "Maybe it is because it is his first game. He usually throws 92-93 mph."

Santana has plenty of admiration for Concepcion, as well.

"There are a lot of important players, but that is legacy," Santana said.

In his 19-year playing career, Concepcion faced a number of outstanding left-handers. In his mind, Santana ranks among the top lefties he's seen.

"I think he is right at the top with all those guys -- Steve Carlton, Jerry Reuss, Jon Matlack, [Jerry] Koosman. [Fernando] Valenzuela," Concepcion said. "He's in the top 10.

"He's been around. You know why he knows how to pitch? Because he's got good control. When you've got good control, you learn how to pitch. You don't make too many mistakes."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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