SARASOTA, Fla. - While the Orioles performed pickoff and outfield drills and took batting practice on the replica Camden Yards field this afternoon, Johan Santana quietly threw a bullpen session between two other practice fields, away from the view of his teammates and manager Buck Showalter.
Santana advanced to a full mound and drew praise from assistant athletic trainer Chris Correnti and pitching rehab coordinator Scott McGregor.
“I felt pretty good, and the thing is I’m able to recover day one all the way to day five. That’s what we are working on right now,” he said.
“Right now, we want to see how I recover, but also working on all my pitches. I’m working on everything. We’re not trying to change anything. We’re throwing all the pitches. Today, I warmed up and stopped and went back up and warmed up again. And I felt pretty good.”
It’s been a while since Santana’s left shoulder has responded so favorably after a second surgery in April to repair the capsule. He’s signed to a minor league deal and will go on the disabled list while continuing to work with Correnti in Sarasota.
Santana, 35, is expected to throw twice more in the bullpen before possibly having hitters track his pitches. After that, he would graduate to throwing batting practice.
“If we feel good and everything is coming along, we’re going to start facing hitters and building it up,” he said. “After that, it’s just a matter of time. We don’t know how long or how many times we’re going to do that until we start getting into games and hopefully able to compete.
“That’s the thing we don’t know. We’re talking about doing it one more time and if everything goes right, we’re going to see if we can see some hitters, maybe some guys standing up just to see how everything is and if i can command the pitches. Then, we’ll see if I can challenge them when they start swinging the bat.”
Santana seems to be ahead of schedule in his recovery and progression, and the two-time Cy Young Award winner could pitch sooner than the Orioles anticipated after they signed him March 4.
“Put it this way: I feel good,” he said. “What that means, time will tell. I feel really good. So does that mean we’re going to be on the mound facing hitters soon? I don’t know. But I’m optimistic when it’s time that I’ll be ready and we’ll carry that through the season. Not just one game and one time. I want to do it the rest of the season.”
Showalter noted that it’s a long process, but Santana is clearing “big hurdles” every day. So far, he hasn’t been tripped up.
“I like the fact that he’s doing it and is able to come back on his work day, his start day, getting him over those hurdles,” Showalter said. “He hasn’t missed anything yet. You can see in his face how good he feels about it.
“There’s going to be another hurdle when he actually pitches in a game, but pitching in a game might be sooner than maybe he was being looked at.”