TAMPA, Fla. - The Orioles took a relatively low-risk gamble on Johan Santana by signing him Tuesday to an incentive-laden minor-league contract that could be worth $8.05 million.
But few want to see Santana's comeback succeed more than Terry Collins, whose 2012 decision to let the former Met throw 134 pitches to complete the franchise's first no-hitter is a bittersweet memory. Shortly afterward, Santana required his second shoulder capsule repair in the span of 31 months.
"Terrific, good for him," Collins said. "I'm really, really happy for him. I hope he's OK. I just hope he can [return]. If anybody can, it would probably be him. He's a special guy."
That's what the Orioles are banking on. Santana, who turns 35 later this month, will earn $3 million if he's added to the 40-man roster with an additional $5.05 million possible through incentives tied to days in the majors, starts and individual awards.
Santana can opt out if he's not with the Orioles by May 30, and for that reason, it's not surprising that general manager Dan Duquette put the timetable for his return around June 1. Recently, Santana was clocked throwing 81 mph by scouts monitoring his workouts, but Duquette was not deterred.
"Anyone who has pitched at the level he's pitched at had significant skills," Duquette told reporters in Sarasota, "and the skills go beyond the velocity."
Buck Showalter also was optimistic. He stressed the importance of "separation" in velocity between Santana's fastball and changeup for the two-time Cy Young winner to be effective again.
"The pedigree speaks for itself," Showalter said.
So does Santana's competitive nature. Showalter mentioned Santana (139) is behind Freddy Garcia (156) for the most victories by a Venezuelan.With Marc Carig