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April 6, 2012

What You Need to Know

Friday, April 6

by Daniel Rathman

The Thursday Takeaway
The Mets have $35 million committed to Jason Bay and $55 million owed to Johan Santana over the next two seasons. If the team is to salvage any value from those ill-fated contracts—either internally or via trade—Bay and Santana must regain their prowess soon. And while Bay’s quiet, 0-for-3 start was nothing to write home about, Santana’s 2012 debut opened some eyes.

Now 33 and coming off a lost season, Santana no longer throws in the mid-90s. His first pitch on Thursday was an 87 mph fastball, and he sat in the upper-80s throughout the afternoon, occasionally reaching back for 90-91. But Santana also proved that he could be effective without premium velocity, tossing five scoreless innings, fanning five and walking two to pave the way for the Mets’ 1-0 win.

The Braves were one of the worst teams in the majors against left-handed pitching last season—combining for a lowly .228/.290/.352 triple slash that represented the second-worst OPS in the league—and general manager Frank Wren did little to bolster his offense this past winter. With that in mind, perhaps Santana’s encouraging effort should be taken with a grain of salt. But for a Mets fan base used to crossing its fingers and expecting the worst, Thursday’s opener provided a much-needed glimmer of hope.

What to Watch for on Friday

  • If Albert Pujols were handpicking a pitcher to be on the mound for his first game with the Angels, Bruce Chen might have been at the top of his list. Pujols is 3-for-8 with two home runs and three walks in 11 career plate appearances against Chen. That amounts to a 1.795 OPS—his best mark versus any active starting pitcher in baseball (min. 10 PAs).
     
  • Friday’s marquee pitching ledger pits CC Sabathia against James Shields at 3:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. Every season is replete with outstanding duels, but the one produced by those two pitchers on July 10 at Yankee Stadium was 2011’s best. The bullpens took the night off as Sabathia and Shields both worked complete games, surrendering just four hits and a walk each. The difference? A throwing error by Shields himself that pushed the game’s only run across in the bottom of the seventh.
     
  • Just as Santana made a triumphant return on Thursday, Buster Posey—who has successfully recovered from the gruesome ankle injury he suffered last May—will try to get back into the swing of things on Friday. Manager Bruce Bochy expects Posey to catch all three games of this weekend’s series in Arizona, an important step in determining how many games he’ll be able handle behind the plate this season.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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