Johan Santana's comeback bid has been stopped in its tracks. The 35-year-old lefty has suffered a torn left Achilles tendon and will be out for the remainder of the season, ending — at least for this year — his bid to return to a major league mound for the first time since August 17, 2012.
Santana suffered the tear while pitching in an extended spring training game for the Orioles, with whom he signed back in early March. Scheduled to throw 75 pitches, he threw only 33 before being hit by a line drive and then stumbling while picking up the ball. Via the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, he limped off the field with assistance, then underwent an MRI that according to general manager Dan Duquette confirmed the Achilles tear:
Santana hasn't pitched in the majors since late 2012, when lower back inflammation ended his season with the Mets after 21 starts, a stint that included the first no-hitter in franchise history. He re-tore the anterior capsule of his shoulder — the injury that cost him the final month of 2010 and all of 2011 — in March 2013 and spent the entire season, the final year of his six-year, $137.5 million deal, on the disabled list. In early March, he signed an incentive-laden minor league deal with Baltimore with a June 1 opt-out date, and had progressed from throwing batting practice and simulated games to pitching in extended spring training games, showing velocity in the high 80s while building up his pitch count.
With his opt-out date approaching, last week the Orioles added him to their roster and immediately placed him on the disabled list, with an eye toward him returning on June 19. This injury scuttles that plan, and it's unclear whether he will make another comeback bid with the Orioles next year or try his luck elsewhere. The two-time Cy Young winner has a career record of 139-78 and an ERA of 3.20. Duquette told Connolly that the Orioles will have to look elsewhere for rotation help. The team came into Friday at 30-28, second in the AL East, but all five members of their rotation — Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez — have ERAs of 4.17 or above, with an ERA+ of less than 100; only Chen has a FIP below 4.21. The unit's 4.59 ERA and 3.3 unintentional walks per nine are both the league's second-worst. Gonzalez went on the disabled list prior to Friday's game, retroactive to May 31 due to a strained oblique. The Orioles will recall well-regarded prospect Kevin Gausman, who yielded five runs in four innings in his lone start for them this year back on May 14, to fill his spot.