There hasn’t been much for Mets fans to get excited about this Spring. Even the highest profile player on the team, David Wright, has missed a major amount of action with an abdominal tear. He’s back now… or rather he’s returned now, and will be ready for Opening Day. Joining him is Johan Santana, who has been the most enjoyable story this Spring. When  I was down in Port St. Lucie, I got to see him pitch twice, and in those two games you could just tell there was extra energy in the ballpark.

Santana announced on his Twitter account that he will be the team’s Opening Day starter, much to Mets’ the fans delight. He hasn’t pitched in a major league game since September 2nd, 2010, so April 5th will make it 581 days between his last two starts.  So on all accounts he should be well rested!  Santana has made three starts for the Mets on Opening Day with a record of 3-0, a 1.98 ERA, eight walks, and 20 strike outs.

The main thing to take away from this Spring was Santana’s velocity. His fastball has been consistently around 90, even getting it up to 92 at times, while his change-up has been around 78-80 MPH. These speeds are consistent to what they were before his surgery. There are two things that concerned me however. One is his arm strength going deep into games, which is something I think will develop as the season goes on. The other, which concerns me the most, is the command of his pitches. This is something that Santana has struggled with slightly this Spring. It looks to me that his walks are going to increase this year and his ERA will be slightly higher. But as a whole I think he will have a successful season and will remind everyone that he is still one of the best pitchers in the league.

In addition to announcing Santana as the Opening Day starter, the Mets set their rotation for the season, which will look like this:

  1. Johan Santana
  2. R.A. Dickey
  3. Jon Niese
  4. Mike Pelfrey
  5. Dillon Gee

Nothing should really surprise us here, though Pelfrey being the 4th man in the rotation is kind of an eye opener. There were talks that the Mets could release Pelfrey and save $5.6M on his non-guaranteed contract. Now there are talks that the Mets could look to trade him if the market for him does develop. With Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia waiting in the wings, Pelfrey needs to prove quickly that he has what it takes to stay on this team or he might be packing his bags for another city.

Niese has really impressed me this Spring and I think he has the potentials to be one of the best lefties in the league. I don’t think he’ll ever be an ace, but he could be a solid number two for years to come in this rotation, especially when the younger guys start to come up and they need “veteran” leadership. I like Gee as the number five guy. He goes out there and just puts up quality starts. Ideally for a number five pitcher you’re not so concerned about ERA but innings pitched. If Gee can give the Mets an ERA in the low fours and throw 200 innings, than he’s done his job.

I think just having Santana out there on Opening Day bring some calmness to the fans who have gone through a lot of chaos in recent years. His return to the mound feels right, even though the line-up will have a different look to it. Mets’ fans will also get the chance to see David Wright and Ike Davis in the line-up together again, which is a site that has been missed.   Adding in the excitement of Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy should negate the negativity around Jason Bay. Also, the Mets have the all-time second best Opening Day percentage of 30-19. So there are reasons to be excited about Opening Day. As for the rest of the season, that’s yet to be determined.

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