The St. Louis Cardinals' spring training loss Tuesday was interesting here in town primarily for Matt Adams's enormous dead-center grand slam, which briefly gave them the lead. Everywhere else in the country—at least everywhere else in the country where they remember a guy who was briefly the best pitcher on earth, even though he did it in Minnesota—the focus was on Johan Santana, who missed the entirety of the 2011 season after a long-festering shoulder injury required surgery. He got the start for the Mets, against the immortal Jake Westbrook, and... he was pretty okay! He didn't give up the home run to Matt Adams!â†µ
In his two innings Santana walked Shane Robinson, allowed a base hit to Mark Hamilton—it was a great day for physically imposing minor league first basemen—and exited having pleased Amazin' Avenue with a high-80s fastball and a still-intact left shoulder.
Shoulder surgery has felled a lot of would-be greats, but because his best years came just before this recent change in offensive environment and in Minnesota it's easy to forget just how great Santana was, at his best. Between 2004 and 2008 he won three ERA titles, three strikeout titles, and one pitching triple crown, and as late as 2010 he'd managed, balky shoulder and all, to turn himself into a kind of prematurely crafty lefty.â†µ