Johan eager for Opening Day at Citi
Longtime ace has only started one opener in home stadium
Schedules change from season to season. And he has changed, too, from the Twins' No. 57 to the Mets' No. 57. So, understandable as it may be, it still is a tad surprising that in 10 seasons in the big leagues, Johan Santana, as accomplished as any active pitcher, has started at home on Opening Day once.
No big deal. But Santana is looking forward to his second pomp and circumstance afternoon, experienced in home whites, with him throwing the first pitches of consequence for a season.
"We'll be ready for Monday," Santana said Tuesday, speaking in the first person plural as he often does. "We were working out the whole Spring Training. From Monday on, every game is going to count. We'll be ready for it."
He appreciates the tradition and understands that if the Mets are to have a renaissance season, it will be best to begin the U-turn on Monday at Citi Field against the Marlins. And he understands the responsibility and the prestige of starting the first game, and the specialty of doing so at home.
"My first two years here, we opened on the road," he said. "I like the idea of being at Citi Field this time."
New York Mets
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
|6||CF||Gary Matthews Jr.|
Santana made his Mets debut against the Marlins in Miami in 2008 and was the winning pitcher in a 7-2 victory. (Florida had been the team's first-game opponent once previously, 1999, also in Miami.) The Mets opened in Cincinnati last season, beating the Reds, 2-1. Santana was the winner then, as well.
Santana's record in his first four openers is 3-1 with a 4.07 ERA. He has a 5-1 record and 1.68 ERA in seven career starts (48 1/3 innings) against the Marlins.
Pitching at Shea Stadium and Citi Field, Santana has produced a 19-6 record and 2.14 ERA in 33 starts.
But Ollie Perez was the Mets' starter in the last Opening Day game at Shea Stadium, and Mike Pelfrey started the first game at Citi Field.
"That's the way baseball is," Santana said. "No problem."
Just the same, he relishes the idea of warming up in the 'pen while his colleagues are summoned to the first-base foul line.
Only in 2007, his final season with the Twins, did he start at home -- in the now lost and of course lamented Metrodome -- on Opening Day. He was given the ball only after his second Cy Young season.
"You know, it's an honor," Santana said. "You have to earn it."
With the Mets, it's quite an undertaking. They are Opening Day masters, having won their past four openers and -- somehow -- 31 of their past 40 first games. Santana promised he'd try not to end that run.
"I'll try to keep it going," Santana said. "It's always good to get off to a good start -- for us and for me."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.