Can Johan Santana make a major league comeback?

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Earlier this week Johan Santana signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

If he reaches the majors this season it will be the first time since 2012 he has thrown in a game. It is a big drop for a player once considered to be the best pitcher in baseball. This move also marks the official end of Santana's memorable time as a New York Met

Santana came to the Mets with much fan-fare in a sign & trade deal in February 2008 that saw then top prospects Carlos Gomez, Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra move for the left handed ace, who also signed a 6-year $137.5 million contract, the richest for any pitcher in baseball history at the time, as part of the deal. 

Of the four players traded, only Gomez has shown any sort of consistent success in the majors. Gomez was named to his first All-Star Game in 2013, won the Gold Glove in center field, and finished in the top 10 in National League MVP voting. 

After throwing a perfect game in April 2012 for the Chicago White Sox, Humber's season took a drastic turn for the worse. He started 14 more games before being pulled from the rotation, posting a 7.21 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP in that time. 

After pitching the equivalent of less than one full year in the majors Mulvey signed a minor league contract with the Mets in March 2012 and later retired in May at the age of 27. Deolis Guerra has yet to make his major league debut at the age of 24.

In his first season with the Mets in 2008, Santana dazzled, nearly winning the NL Cy Young Award. He went 16-7 that season with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP finishing third in Cy Young voting. Santana also kept the Mets playoff hopes alive (at least for one more day) by pitching a spectacular three hit complete game shutout, on three days rest, against the Marlins, in what would be the second to last game ever at Shea Stadium. It was later revealed that Santana had pitched the game with a torn meniscus, thus making the performance all the more spectacular.

In 2009, Santana came out hot in his first 10 starts. He was 7-2, and had a 1.77 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, but in his final 15 starts he went 6-7 and had a 4.02 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP to finish with a 13-9 record and 3.13 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 166 innings pitched. Santana was shut down in late August to remove bone chips from his elbow.

The 2010 season does not stand out as memorable on the surface but it has proven to be vastly underrated. To drive home the point, outside of record, innings pitched, and strikeouts, Santana's season was better than his crosstown ace counterpart in CC Sabathia, who placed third in AL Cy Young voting that season.

In 200 innings pitched, Santana had a 11-9 record, but a 2.98 ERA, a WHIP of 1.18, and 144 strikeouts. Once again though, Santana's season was cut short due to injury, this time a torn anterior capsule in his left throwing shoulder. This injury kept him out for the entire 2011 season as well.

2012 marked a new beginning for Johan. Santana came back with a vengeance, posting a 2.75 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP in the first two months of the season. He, along with eventual NL Cy Young winnerR.A. Dickey, made a potent 1-2 punch. On June 1st, it finally happened. That night, Santana threw not only his first career no-hitter, but also the first no-hitter in New York Mets history.

In his next start Santana was rocked by the New York Yankees, going five innings and allowing six runs. But after that he seemed to settle down and began getting his feet back under him, especially after throwing eight shutout innings against the Dodgers. Not including the no-hitter Santana had a 3.60 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in the month of June.

But in his next start vs the Chicago Cubs, Santana had his ankle stepped on while trying to cover first base on a ground ball by outfielder Reed Johnson. Including the game against the Cubs, Santana made five starts, lasted a total of 19 innings, and put up a whopping 15.63 ERA and a WHIP of 2.58. He was again shut down for the remainder of the season, this time with inflammation in his lower back

On March 28th, 2013, it was announced Santana had once again torn his anterior capsule in his left shoulder, requiring season ending surgery, effectively ending his Mets career.

Before signing with the Orioles, Santana threw a bullpen session for multiple teams. In that session it was reported that he maxed out at only 81 MPH. It is questionable whether he will ever be the same pitcher again. But if there is anyone who can come back, it's Santana. Believe it.

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