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Mets mini-camp: Johan Santana

Johan Santana plays catch at Mets mini-camp. (Jan.

Johan Santana plays catch at Mets mini-camp. (Jan. 25, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Ken Davidoff

So, a brief scene-setter: It is low-key down here. Just a handful of players, and as the day kicked off at 10:00, the most senior person in attendance was either Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen or vice president of media relations. I'm not sure who is ahead of the other in the line of succession to become President.

(of the United States, not the Mets)

The braintrust - yes, I'm throwing you a hanging curveball, if you so desire - arrived closer to noon. Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya, Jerry Manuel, John Ricco and Wayne Krivsky came down on Wilpon's jet. They held a meeting with some of the other officials, and they'll all be in attendance for tomorrow's workout.

As for these workouts? They're brief, about an hour and a half. Everyone stretched and ran. Then the pitchers played catch on flat ground, and the hitters took batting practice.

Who's here? Today, there was Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, Jonathon Niese, Daniel Murphy, Eddie Kunz, Chris Carter (acquired in the Billy Wagner trade), Jack Egbert (a waiver claim last September) and catcher Mike Nickeas, whom the Mets acquired from Texas in 2006 in return for Victor Diaz - whom the Mets acquired from the Dodgers in 2003 in return for Jeromy Burnitz - whom the Mets reacquired in a 2002 three-way trade that, among other things, sent Lenny Harris to Milwaukee.

Harris became a Met, for the second time, in a 2000 trade with Arizona for Bill Pulsipher - whom the Mets reacquired in a 2000 trade with Milwaukee for Luis Lopez - whom the Mets acquired in a 1997 trade with Houston for Tim Bogar.

So that's how Bogar still has a connection to the Mets. It's the Mets' longest active "trade chain."

(Thanks to this book for wasting our time with that trivia.)

Sorry, got distracted there. I'd like to add one more introductory note, with great trepidation: John Stearns was here today. He's a scout for the Mariners now, but apparently he does some Fantasy Camp work for the Mets. He didn't help with any instruction, just popped in and popped out.

I stayed away from him, Richie.

--Anyway, my intention, right now, is to publish separate blog entries for each of the principles interviewed today. First up is Santana, who looks great, and who certainly appeared free and easy, as they say, when he played catch with Perez.

"To get on the field finally, after six weeks of the end of the season last year, and also the offseason, it’s good," said Santana - who, you know, ended last season early with elbow surgery. "I’ve been doing all of my throwing and everything, but to be here, and good, is a good feeling."

He'll throw off a mound today for the first "official" time, he said, by which I think he meant at a big-league facility in front of his superiors. Although he was a little coy about that part.

--He said that he should be on schedule to start the regular season at full strength, and that he felt better now than he did a year ago at this time. Amazingly, nearly two years under Mets employment has not diminished Santana's optimism. While he kept reiterating the team's need to be healthy, he even found a silver lining in Carlos Beltran's recent, grim news.

"This issue with Carlos, it was something that was there. In and out, in and out," Santana said. "For him to be able to clean that up is a good thing.

"I believe, if we stay healthy, our team is much better. It’s not just him, but the whole team. Including me. If we stay healthy, we’re gonna be good. I think our chances are better. You’ll see a lot of guys ready to go and ready for the season, and that’s what we’re looking for."

--Santana said that he would welcome further help to the Mets' starting rotation, and that his fellow Venezuelan Kelvim Escobar, a new Met, is "very excited. He’s very happy about being in New York now. He said he feels pretty good." Escobar is expected here tomorrow.

Basically, Mets fans, if you're looking for a reason for hope, look no further than Santana. He's not going to get dragged down by history, pressure or any such junk. As long as he's physically capable, and so far, so good - the Mets would appear to have themself an ace and team leader.


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