Mets' Johan Santana to have surgery

Updated: September 11, 2010, 10:28 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Johan Santana has suffered a tear of the anterior capsule of the left shoulder and will have season-ending surgery in the near future, the Mets announced Friday. Santana is unsure if he'll be ready to pitch by Opening Day.

An MRI taken at the Hospital for Special Surgery on Thursday revealed the tear. The injury is located on the front and bottom part of the shoulder close to the pectoral muscle, the team said, resulting in discomfort radiating through both the pectoral muscle and shoulder.

This is the second straight year Santana has had season-ending surgery late in the season. He underwent a procedure to remove bone chips in his left elbow in August 2009. He also had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left knee in the 2008 offseason.

Santana said he will begin throwing in January but offered no specific timetable for his return to the mound.

"I think the most important thing here is to be ready to be 100 percent. Whether it's April, whether it's May, July, October ... who knows?" Santana said. "Time will tell how I recover but I've just got to go back to being healthy and being 100 percent."

Santana will get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews early next week.

No surgery date has been set.

The former Cy Young winner was pulled from his Sept. 2 start in Atlanta after the fifth inning due to "tightness" he felt in his arm. Santana played catch two days later and threw a bullpen session the next day, during which the left-hander said he felt "discomfort." The Mets decided after the bullpen session that Santana would not make his next scheduled start on Tuesday.

Santana said he was caught off guard by the doctor's diagnosis after Thursday's MRI.

"I didn't know the magnitude of the injury I had. ... It's more than what I thought," he said. "It's surprising."

Rookie Dillon Gee will take Santana's spot in the rotation, pitching Monday. Jerry Manuel said Gee's availability beyond Monday is in question due to the overall innings he has pitched this season.

The Mets, who have $120 million in payroll committed to next year's team, were certainly counting on a healthy Santana to anchor the 2011 rotation. Omar Minaya was resigned to the fact that he'd likely have to alter his offseason plans to try to replace Santana.

"When you don't have a guy like a Johan Santana in the rotation -- those kind of guys don't come around," Minaya said. "Whether it's through trade or free agency you have to look at replacing him. ... Hopefully he'll be back earlier rather than later.

"But when we get into planning for next year, it's going to be something that I did not expect to fill."

Santana said former Mets teammate Kelvim Escobar underwent the same surgery to repair a similar shoulder ailment. Escobar signed a $1.25 million contract with the Mets and hasn't pitched for the team since he went down with the shoulder injury three weeks into spring training. Minaya said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada had a similar injury to his labrum. Posada missed most of 2008 after shoulder surgery and returned to the field healthy in 2009. A starting pitcher, however, clearly places more strain on the shoulder over the course of 162 games than a position player.

"I don't really know," Santana said when asked if he'd return by Opening Day 2011. "This is something that I was told was going to take time."

The Mets signed Santana to a six-year, $137.5 million contract in 2008 after the team obtained him in a trade with Minnesota.

In October 2008, Santana had offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Last season he underwent season-ending surgery to remove bone chips in his left elbow in late August.

Omar Minaya believes Santana will come back strong enough from this most recent ailment to perform at a high level in the remaining three years of his contract.

"I think and I feel that he will fulfill those next three years hopefully to the level that he's pitched so far," Minaya said.

Said Santana: "I just have to recover and hope that this will be the end of it. Get everything fixed and 100 percent and come back and play and pitch and try to help this team. Because that's the mentality I had when I got here and that's the mentality I'm going to have until I'm done playing baseball." Santana went 11-9 with a 2.98 ERA and 144 strikeouts this season.

Minaya was asked to comment on the run of serious injuries to Mets stars during his tenure as general manager. Jose Reyes missed most of last season with hamstring and calf ailments and has been in and out of the lineup with a strained right oblique. Carlos Beltran missed the first half of 2010 after offseason surgery on his right knee.

"If you look at what's been going on the past couple years it's not something that you like to see. ... I think sometimes these things go in cycles," Minaya said. "Unfortunately we're in the cycle right now and we wish that we were not."

Beltran believes the Mets, who entered last night at 69-71, would have been a good team if he, Reyes and Santana had remained healthy and on the field at the same time during the past two years.

"We would have been a good team, there's no doubt about it," the center fielder told ESPNNewYork.com. "We have a great group of guys, a great group of ballplayers. But unfortunately, you know, that really hasn't been the case where we have been able to be outside together for a long period of time."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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