TAMPA, Fla. -- Left-hander Johan Santana, who is recovering from his second shoulder surgery in a three-year span, threw two innings in his first extended spring training game Monday afternoon at the Orioles' complex in Sarasota, Fla.
Santana is continuing to improve his fastball velocity. He was clocked at 86 to 89 mph Monday, which is encouraging since it was his first outing in game action aside from simulated games. He is expected to throw three innings Saturday in his next appearance.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose club is in Florida for a day off before opening a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, was in attendance Monday.
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Santana still has several hurdles to overcome, and he appears to be several weeks away from becoming a possible option for the major league club, but it was a promising step forward.
Santana missed the entire 2013 season after shoulder surgery in April of that year and hasn’t pitched in a major league game since Aug. 17, 2012. Santana’s fastball averaged 88.4 mph in 2012, according to FanGraphs.
Since he signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in March, Santana’s velocity has gradually improved. In February, when he first threw for teams, Santana was clocked at 81 mph.
Showalter said this weekend that Santana’s velocity continues to be “inching up” while he strengthens his arm in Sarasota.
Because Santana is 35 and coming off multiple shoulder surgeries, the Orioles don’t expect his velocity to reach the average 92-93 mph range he had during his best years with the Minnesota Twins, but the key will be effectively using his fastball with a devastating changeup that made him one of the game’s top left-handers.
During Santana's two American League Cy Young seasons (2004 and 2006), he was able to mix his fastball with a changeup that averaged 12 mph slower.
Santana might not need that much of a difference to be effective, but the closer he gets to that would seem to help him get hitters out.