Johan's outing positive despite results

Johan's outing positive despite results

PORT ST. LUICE, Fla. -- OPS doesn't matter in the scenario unfolding here these days. No one gives a nit about WAR or WHIP or the other, uppercase abbreviations that now litter the big league landscape. Johan Santana pitched again Friday, and, when his workday was complete, these numbers mattered to him -- 3, 65, 21 and 2 2/3. As his evolution from patient to pitcher continued, these numbers carried almost zero significance for him -- 92, 0, 4, 44 and 33. An explanation follows:

Santana made his third Spring Training start Friday afternoon, when the Mets engaged the Tigers. He threw 65 pitches, 21 for balls and completed 2 2/3 innings. One of his pitches was measured at 92 mph. He struck out none, allowed four runs, threw 44 strikes. And he is 33 years old.

Santana pitched 2 2/3 innings against the Tigers and anticipates throwing at least six innings in one of his remaining starts. He was encouraged by the increased arm strength indicated by the 65 pitches -- the plan had been for him to throw 60 -- and borderline disappointed by the number of pitches that missed the strikezone.

That one pitch, a 1-2 fastball to Prince Fielder in the third inning -- which touched 92 was no more meaningful than the score of the game -- Tigers 9, Mets 0.

"The velocity will go up the more I pitch," Santana said.

That he struck out none of his 14 batters and surrendered five runs -- four earned -- and threw 44 strikes had no more significance than his age.

It's mid-March, and quantity trumps quality at every turn for a veteran pitcher in the final stages of convalescence who is preparing to start the Mets' first game of consequence April 5.

"Very satisfied with how today went," is how Santana put it after the fact. "This is progress. I moved forward in the most important ways. Next time, I throw 70 pitches at least, probably more."

Santana is certain that quality will be there when the quantity is where it needs to be.

"Nothing so far says it won't be," he added.

Santana pays little mind now to the shoulder injury and the surgery it necessitated in 2010. He's a pitcher again. He's had three surgeries since joining the Mets in 2008. He knows when he is no longer is a patient, saying, "I can do almost everything now."

Dan Warthen, the pitching coach, is the man he addresses, not the the MDs. The Mets no longer view his return as a work in progress, but rather as a progression of work. He's preparing.

Manager Terry Collins said Friday: "We could be broken-hearted in two weeks. But we don't expect anything to go wrong."

That's how much progress has been made since Santana arrived last month.