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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mets News and Notes: Santana, Wilpon, Olson, Wheeler

Mets News and Notes:

Johan Santana insisted his right ankle and pitching shoulder were healthy after he only recorded four outs, matching his shortest career start, which happened to be in Atlanta in April.  The Braves beat the Mets, 9-3, Saturday at Citi Field. The Mets (54-60) dropped a season-worst six games under .500. Santana was charged with eight runs, two shy of his career high.

He assigned his control woes to having not faced major league hitters since July 20. He is now 3-6 with a 7.98 ERA in nine starts since tossing the historic June 1 no-hitter. He has allowed six or more runs in four straight starts, matching Al Leiter (1999) and Pedro Astacio (2002) for the longest such streak in franchise history. It also matches Atlanta's Mike Minor for the longest such streak in the majors this season.

The only pitchers in Mets history to allow at least eight runs and eight hits while retiring four batters or fewer in a game? Calvin Schiraldi (in relief on June 11, 1985 at Philadelphia) and Santana, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“He had trouble with his changeup tonight early, and we got into some counts and got some pitches in the middle of the plate to hit," Chipper Jones said. "We bled a few in, but it was not typical Johan.”

Santana appears virtually unmovable in a trade. Combined with a 2014 buyout, the southpaw is owed $31 million next season. Former Mets GM Steve Phillips estimated to Zach Schonbrun in the Times that an acquiring team might be willing to take on $10 million of Santana's salary, but that estimate seems high. Even if accurate, it is hard to fathom the Mets contributing $21 million to Santana playing elsewhere anyway and going with a rotation of R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee and a yet-to-be-identified fifth candidate. Santana has a no-trade clause anyway.

Principal owner Fred Wilpon appeared on the field during batting practice and chatted with Keith Hernandez and Tim Teufel, but Wilpon declined a reporter's question about the state of the team, referring the issue to Sandy Alderson. Yet it's the Wilpon-set payroll, combined with existing contracts, that have suffocated the team. Santana and Jason Bay will combine to make $50 million next season, including 2014 buyouts. That is potentially crippling if the Mets' payroll will remain about $90 million next season. The only Mets' payroll commitment right now beyond 2013 is to Niese, who signed a five-year contract on the eve of the season.

The Mets cleared a roster spot for Santana's return from the DL by designating left-hander Garrett Olson for assignment. Olson was charged with four runs while recording only one out in his lone relief appearance, Wednesday against the Marlins. Olson's departure leaves Josh Edgin as the lone lefty in the bullpen, which is now minus Tim Byrdak (torn anterior capsule in left shoulder). 

Zack Wheeler allowed two first-inning hits, including an RBI double to Eduardo Nunez, in his second Triple-A start. But Wheeler followed with five no-hit innings and ended up with a no-decision in Buffalo's 5-1 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Second baseman Wilmer Flores, who is being shuttled among different infield positions, had a game-ending throwing error in Binghamton's 5-4 loss at Harrisburg. Jacob deGrom limited Fort Myers to one hit in seven scoreless innings in his Florida State League debut, after a promotion from Savannah.

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