With six-and-a-half weeks remaining in the Mets’ 2012 season, the organizational focus has shifted towards player assessment for next year.
At the top of the list resides Johan Santana.
“He’s had one start after being out a month or three weeks,” manager Terry Collins said prior to the Mets’ 6-5 win over the Braves in the series finale Sunday night at Citi Field. “Any conversations we have about the future they’re down the road. They’re not going to be right now.
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“We’ll take a look after a few more starts and decide how he’s feeling, if there’s any more fatigue setting in,” Collins said.
Santana was hammered for eight runs on eight hits in 1 1/3 innings in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to Atlanta. It was his first start after being placed on the 15-day DL with a sprained right ankle on July 21.
“A couple balls came back over the middle of the plate,” catcher Josh Thole said. “He gave up a lot of singles. You start the game single, single, single, it’s going to be tough.
“I think for him it’s frustrating because he knows what he can do,” Thole said, who termed Santana’s stuff as “strong” and “really good” Saturday night.
After missing all of last year recuperating from anterior capsule surgery on his left shoulder, Santana is 6-8 with a 4.58 ERA in 112 innings this season. But that is tempered by the fact that he is 2-8 with a 6.50 ERA since throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history on June 1.
His record coupled with his health and the Mets’ 8-20 record following the All-Star break had led Santana and Terry Collins to broach the idea of the left-hander possibly being shut down for the season after the game Saturday night.
Collins moved away from that platform during his pre-game press conference late Sunday afternoon. Santana is scheduled to pitch the series opener against the National League East-leading Nationals Friday night in Washington.
“I haven’t talked to [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] about it. I haven’t talked to [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] about it. I have no plans at the immediate time of shutting Johan Santana down,” Collins said.
Shutting down Santana in September could allow the Mets to observe prospects Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia. Collins was unequivocal about the importance of player development, which he believes includes teaching young players “how to win.”
But a mass call-up would come at the cost of lowering Santana’s already-microscopic trade value. Santana will make $25.5 million in 2013, which makes him virtually untradeable unless the Mets are willing to eat a majority of the money owed.
It is more likely that Santana will start next year in the joint role of front-line starter and mentor to Wheeler, Familia, Mejia and Matt Harvey, all of whom the organization is basing its future on.
“He’s a big part of this. He really is,” Thole said. “Even this year, he’s a big part of this. He’s going to hold down the top of the rotation.
“This is a guy, this is a presence you need in your clubhouse, a presence you need on the mound.”
As for Sunday's win, the Mets entered the ninth inning with a 6-1 lead due to strong work from Jonathon Niese (9-6). He limited the Braves to one run on six hits in eight innings. His lone mistake was Freddie Freeman’s solo home run to lead off the second inning.
However, relievers Josh Edgin and Frank Francisco combined to surrender four runs on four hits and walked four before Jon Rauch struck out Jason Heyward to end the game.
“It never should have gotten to that point,” Collins said.
David Wright went 2-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and a RBI. Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin each drove in two runs.
Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.