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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Don't Mess with the Johan: Santana will get the ball opening day

The Mets announced Sunday that Johan Santana will start Opening Day at Citi Field, 19 months and three days after last pitching in the big leagues.

"It means that everything that we have done since I had my surgery, all the way to today, has been paid off," Santana said. "We worked hard and I'm very happy."

Santana's April 5 assignment will come just under 19 months removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. A rare, though increasingly common operation for pitchers, shoulder capsule surgery has at best derailed careers and at worst ended them. Knowing that, Santana mostly avoided talk of Opening Day throughout the first six weeks of Spring Training. Even Collins, his manager, recently expressed surprise that Santana had made it through the bulk of camp without a single setback.

Caution rules in Port St. Lucie, where a "Prevention and Recovery" sign still hangs prominently in the clubhouse entranceway. Had Santana felt even the slightest bit of abnormal soreness following a 71-pitch bullpen session on Saturday, the Mets would have backed him up to the fifth game of the season, starting R.A. Dickey in the opener. Instead, Santana will pitch against the Braves on Thursday, followed by Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee, in that order.

"At some point, everything has to start," Santana said. "I believe we still have a little way to go as far as building everything up, getting more games and getting through a season. That's definitely another step that we have to go through. But as of right now, where we're at right now, I feel really good and I feel like we've accomplished a lot."

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