Santana explained that the injury had been bothering him for much of the season's second half. He was having a harder time recovering between starts and had stopped throwing a bullpen session between games. Santana had been evaluated over the All-Star break by Altchek, who told the Mets ace then that it was "a matter of time" before he needed surgery on his elbow.
Santana had hoped to wait until after the season to undergo the surgery, but increased pain in the elbow -- along with the club's distance from first in the standings -- expedited the process.
"The time frame was to do it after the season was over," Santana said. "Then the team decided to do it sooner rather than later to allow me more time to recover. This was the smartest thing to do. Shut everything down, get it clean, get it ready to go."
Santana underwent a similar procedure in 2003 as a member of the Twins. The left-hander had bone chips removed from his pitching elbow in the offseason, returning in '04 to win 20 games and the first of his two American League Cy Young Awards in Minnesota.
"It's pretty close," Santana said of the two operations. "I feel way better than I did back then. We got into rehab right away."
Santana added that his arm already feels as if "nothing happened."
Santana's schedule calls for four to six weeks of rehabilitation. That shouldn't interfere with Santana's offseason training regimen, as he doesn't usually start throwing until January anyway. Santana said he may throw earlier this offseason just to make sure his elbow has recovered properly from the surgery.
Although Santana's 13-9 record and 3.13 ERA for the season are solid, it was clear that he had not been pitching at full strength since the beginning of June. Santana registered a 6.19 ERA in six starts that month, including the worst start of his career in a 15-0 loss at Yankee Stadium on June 14.
Santana's velocity was down, and he admitted that the injury affected his mechanics.
"The mechanics weren't the same," Santana said. "I was dropping a little bit, I wasn't able to finish my pitches. Every time I threw my fastball trying to come in, my fastball was going back to the middle. And my changeup has a tendency to go middle-away, and it was cutting."
Even with the elbow pain, Santana rebounded from the rough June to go 4-3 with a 2.80 ERA the past two months. He made it clear that if the Mets were still in the race, he would still be on the mound.
"Definitely. The reason why I stopped was because [the team] wanted me to stop," Santana said.
And Santana certainly hasn't lost his sense of humor.
"I told them I'd be ready for Tuesday," he joked. "But they don't want me to."