Mets History: Johan Santana’s final Opening Day start in 2012
After missing the entire 2011 season following shoulder surgery, Johan Santana returned to the mound for the 2012 New York Mets right where he belonged: as their Opening Day starter.
It was a big day for the New York Mets history on April 5, 2012. Johan Santana took the mound for the first time in over a year.
Firstly, a bit of background regarding this particular Opening Day. Santana first came to the Mets in a trade from the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2008 season. New York quickly signed the two-time Cy Young Award Winner to a 6-year extension, which would him with the team through 2013.
Throughout Santana’s first three seasons with the Mets, he performed as the same level he did when they first traded for him, finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2008, being voted to the All-Star Game in 2009 and overall, was the team’s best pitcher through the 2008-2010 seasons.
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However, as was the case with many members of the Mets at this time, injuries eventually caught up to another one of the team’s key players. In September of 2010, Santana was forced to undergo anterior capsule surgery to his left shoulder, forcing him to miss out on the entire 2011 season.
This was an injury which at the time, no player had ever pitched again after undergoing.
Santana however, was a special player. In late 2011, he appeared in a few games in the minors as part of his rehabilitation. By spring training of 2012, had been cleared to resume full baseball activities.
Johan performed well enough in his exhibition games to the point skipper Terry Collins deemed him the Opening Day starter for the team.
On April 5, 2012, 19 months since he last threw a pitch in a major league game, Santana took the mound in front of a crowd of over 42,000 fans to take on the rival Atlanta Braves. Backed defensively by familiar faces such as David Wright, Jason Bay, and Daniel Murphy. Also included were up and coming players like Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Ruben Tejada.
Johan was ready to throw out the first pitch in his return to the big leagues.
Facing off against veteran center fielder Michael Bourn, Santana worked his first batter to a 2-2 count before getting him to ground out to the first baseman on his fifth pitch to get the first out of the game. He then gave up a single to Martin Prado before getting Brian McCann to fly out to right field and then striking out Dan Uggla on five pitches to close out the first inning.
Santana finished the game throwing 84 pitches over five scoreless innings, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out five batters in his return to the Mets, leaving the game with the score knotted up at 0-0. Ramon Ramirez relieved him in the top 6th inning and David Wright drove in Andres Torres from third base on a single, giving the Mets the lead and driving in the lone run of the game.
Mets closer Frank Francisco went on to close out the game in the top of the 9th, securing the Mets their first win of the new season.
As many fans know, in 2012 Johan Santana would go on to have a very memorable season, full of both good and bad. Early on in the year, he looked to have regained his old form, being one of the league leaders in ERA through the first few months of the year.
He pitched a 4-hit shut out against the Padres on May 26th before his legendary performance on June 1st where his pitched the first no-hitter in franchise history against the St. Louis Cardinals. Later on in the month, he threw 8 shut out innings against the LA Dodgers and finished the month of June at an ERA of 2.76.
However, a string of poor starts and multiple injures plagued Santana shortly after. He started only five more games for the Mets before being shut down following a poor outing on August 17th against the Nationals, where he gave up six runs over five innings.
As many fans may know, this was the last appearance of Johan Santana in a major league game, as he missed the 2013 season recovering from a second shoulder surgery, after which his contract with the Mets had come to an end.
Santana attempted comebacks in the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays respectively, but never managed to appear in a major league game with either team.
Knowing how the 2012 season ended for Johan Santana does make this memory a bit bittersweet, however, it was an incredible feat the Johan returned to the major leagues at all following his first operation in late 2010.
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For all he did as a member of the New York Mets when he was healthy, Santana remains one of the most beloved players in team history.