Sources: Mets hope against major repair
The New York Mets won't know for sure about the status of star pitcher Johan Santana until sometime after he undergoes tests on Tuesday afternoon, but the expectation within the organization, sources say, is that Santana's injury is not so serious that he will require reconstructive elbow surgery.
Rather, the hope is that Santana, who has been pitching with elbow discomfort the entire season, be diagnosed with some sort of lesser problem, such as bone chips. If the injury is not serious, Santana could have corrective surgery now and presumably be ready for the start of spring training in 2010, barring any setbacks or complications.
Santana, 30, is 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA, but his elbow discomfort has worsened as this season has progressed. He was scratched Monday from his next scheduled start, which was to come Tuesday at Florida.
There have been red flags about the left-hander's elbow for more than two years. At the end of the 2007 season, scouts reported that Santana's velocity was down and that he had basically stopped throwing his slider. Officials from the Red Sox and Yankees took this as a sign that Santana was having elbow trouble and wanted to avoid the torque inherent in throwing a slider.
In the end, concern about Santana's elbow was part of the reason why neither the New York Yankees nor the Boston Red Sox fully invested themselves in trade talks with the Minnesota Twins (concerns about the cost in prospects and dollars were other major concerns). When the Twins pushed to trade Santana before the start of spring training in 2008, the Red Sox and Yankees viewed this as a sign of confirmation that the Twins had their own concerns about the pitcher and wanted to trade him before their camps opened and he was required to throw.
The Mets, who acquired the two-time Cy Young Award in February 2008 from Minnesota, have a lot of concerns going into next season, but they remain hopeful that the availability of Santana won't be one of them. But they can't know for sure until he is examined later Tuesday.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.