NEW YORK -- Pitchers play catch almost every day, casually tossing the ball back and forth with a partner in the outfield, and nobody really notices. But when Johan Santana played catch late Sunday afternoon here at Citi Field, it was a big deal.
Santana went under cover for his throwing session, into the bullpen and generally out of sight of reporters, and he was watched by pitching coach Dan Warthen and his manager, Terry Collins. Not long before Santana began, Collins promised that he would be hovering over Santana when he throws in the days ahead, because he intends to do everything he can to keep the left-hander healthy, in the aftermath of his 134-pitch no-hitter Friday -- the most pitches Santana has ever thrown in a game.
"When he throws today," Collins said, "he's going to feel like a freight train hit him."
Santana said afterward that he felt fine, and that the throwing session went well, but the Mets will continue to handle him with great care. Chris Young has been summoned to pitch Tuesday night, which buys an extra day of rest for Santana. Now, the current plan is for Santana to start Thursday, on five days' rest.
Collins' intention is to apply hard ceilings to Santana's pitch count in the starts to come, at about 90 pitches.
A longtime major league pitcher emailed Sunday and noted that the possible impact on Santana from the no-hitter may not be felt for another two to four starts. Collins is aware of this, and fully understands how important Santana is to the Mets, who wake up today in a virtual tie for first place in the NL East. If the Mets are going to stay in the race, Collins said, Santana will be a big part of how this happens.
"If Johan's out," Collins said, "I'm going to be pretty upset."
• There is one team with a winning percentage of over .600 -- the Los Angeles Dodgers -- and there are 18 more teams at .500 or better, with only 57 days remaining before the deadline. Twenty-five of the 30 teams are within 6.5 games of the wild-card leaders, and what that means, of course, is that relatively few teams will declare themselves as sellers in the weeks ahead.
Sitting him down wouldn't be a bad idea, writes John Tomase.
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information
6: Highest number of total bases recorded by any hitter Sunday, the lowest max this year over a full 15-game slate.
24: Career home runs by Carlos Zambrano, more than twice as many as any other active pitcher (Livan Hernandez has 10).
26: Consecutive innings the Cardinals went without scoring a run before scoring in the eighth inning Sunday.
484: Distance of Nelson Cruz's home run Sunday, the longest at any ballpark this year.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. Bill Maher has bought into the Mets, literally.
5.Ron Roenicke has been forced to come up with some creative lineups.
Dings and dents
A. Continued nasty slider: In the past two games, opposing hitters have gone 2-for-27 with 18 strikeouts on PAs ending in a slider.
B. Damage control: Four of seven baserunners were to lead off innings; with men on base, Sale went to the slider 48 percent of the time (22 percent with bases empty). The Mariners promptly went 1-for-11 including 5 K's with runners on base.
C. Recorded 11 fly-ball outs, tying a career high.
D. Four 1-2-3 innings, plus four others in which he faced four batters. Threw just 13 pitches between the seventh and eighth innings combined.
5.The Rangers flexed their muscles in the series finale against the Angels.
• It's win or go home today for Vanderbilt and N.C. State.
• The draft is today, under different rules, as Adam Kilgore writes.
• The Astros have a choice today at 6:09 p.m. Central time.
• There are no sure things for the Mariners.
• The Twins have a tough choice to make today.
• The Cardinals' bullpen is a work in progress.
• The Royals hope to take a college pitcher.
• The Yankees weren't happy with the security at Comerica Park on Sunday.
• A Mets fan regrets running onto the field after Santana's no-hitter.
• All the best to Lindsey and Jim Duquette; the former GM is donating a kidney for his daughter today.
• Have some early-morning travel today, so I couldn't get to all the links. We'll be back at it Wednesday.
And today will be better than yesterday.