Johan Santana's season is over.
The Mets announced Wednesday night that Santana has inflammation in his lower back and has been placed on the 15-day disabled list. Although the team said surgery "is not indicated," general manager Sandy Alderson said he does not expect Santana to pitch again this season.
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Santana will be treated with rest and medication, the team said. The Mets hope to have him back healthy for spring training. They have to hope that because they are committed to paying Santana $31 million in 2013 in the final guaranteed year of his contract ($25.5 million in salary and a $5.5-million buyout of a $25-million option for 2014).
"I'm very confident he'll be back next season ready to go, hopefully in a stronger position than coming into this season,'' Alderson said at a Citi Field news conference. "If you look back at this season and what we reasonably could've expected at the beginning of the year, he's accomplished quite a lot.''
Santana was scheduled to face the Rockies Thursday. That start will be taken by rookie Collin McHugh.
"My mindset was to start [Thursday]," Santana said. "But the doctors are thinking different now. So we'll go with everything they're saying. I want to keep pitching. I feel that I could pitch, but at the same time I'm listening to them."
Alderson said he's encouraged that Santana is not being shut down because of a problem with his surgically repaired left shoulder, which caused him to miss the 2011 season. The GM also said doctors have told the Mets that Santana's back issue can be managed without surgery.
"I don't believe it's a disc [problem]," Alderson said. "It's inflammation in the area of [vertebra] L5. That inflammation has led to some soreness, but again, I think the important thing is, that the doctors have not recommended surgery.''
Alderson did not disclose the exact cause of the inflammation. Dr. Andrew Hecht, an orthopedic surgeon and co-chief of spinal surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine who is not involved in Santana's treatment, said: "The most common causes of lower back inflammation in the area of L5 are herniated disc, spondylolysis and the inflammation of a facet joint. Rest, medication and exercise is a good, proper treatment plan.''
Spondylolysis is defined as a specific defect in the connection between vertebrae. Facet joints are the movable joints that allow flexibility in the spine.
Thus ends what the Mets consider a successful comeback season for the 33-year-old lefthander. Santana went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 117 innings and threw the franchise's first no-hitter in a 134-pitch effort against the Cardinals on June 1.
But Santana faded after the no-hitter and was extremely hittable after returning Aug. 11 from a stint on the disabled list because of an ankle sprain. He also said that is when he started feeling the back pain. He is 0-5, 15.63 in his last five starts and has an 8.27 ERA since the no-hitter.
Manager Terry Collins agonized about whether to let Santana throw all those pitches in the no-hitter. Alderson said there's no evidence that decision led to Santana's back problems.
"I don't have any second thoughts about the way it was handled,'' Alderson said.
"This has not been a shoulder issue, so from that standpoint I just don't see a direct correlation. As good an explanation as any is that this is a substantial number of innings that he pitched over the course of the season following a season of no activity other than rehab.''
Said Santana: "That's a long time ago . . . It's tough to go back and look at that no-hitter and blame the no-hitter for this."