PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As the Mets brace themselves to go on without left-hander Johan Santana, teammate David Wright called it a "disheartening" situation for the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner whose career with the Mets has likely come to an end.
The club announced Thursday that Santana had torn his left shoulder capsule for the second time in three years, creating the "strong possibility" that he would need surgery, general manager Sandy Alderson said. It could also mean Santana's time in a Mets uniform -- and perhaps his career -- is over.
"You do something for so long and you're so successful at it, and to have a setback like this, it kind of hits everybody in here hard, just because of the kind of teammate he's been," said Wright, who has played alongside Santana throughout the lefty's entire time in New York.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Friday morning that he was "fairly concerned early on" this spring as Santana battled what the Mets diagnosed as left shoulder weakness. Santana flew to New York this week for an MRI, which revealed a probable re-tear of his shoulder capsule. Second opinions confirmed as much.
"He comes in -- I knew he hadn't thrown a whole lot, hadn't worked out a whole lot -- you think, 'All right, this is gonna take longer than what a normal Spring Training would be,'" Warthen said. "But as it continued on, it became a little more of a concern."
Warthen said he took notice when Santana had trouble getting his arm into the proper throwing position, and when Santana finally did, the ball "didn't come out like it generally does from Johan's arm."
Santana, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2004 and '06 with the Twins, was traded to the Mets in February 2008. He won 40 games in his first three seasons in New York before missing the entire '11 season after surgery to repair his torn left shoulder capsule in September 2010.
"To go through it a second time, I think it'd actually be harder, because you know what's ahead," said reliever Tim Byrdak, who had the same procedure last year. "The first time you go through it, it's a mystery, so you don't really know what to expect. The second time, you know kind of your checkpoints and can say this is where you're at. To know how far away it is, [that] is really rough."
Santana returned to the Majors 19 months later, going 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA from Opening Day 2012 through his June 1 no-hitter -- the first in Mets history. But he was not the same pitcher after that, posting a 3-7 record and 8.27 ERA in his final 10 outings.
With Santana battling ankle, back and shoulder issues, the Mets shut him down in mid-August; he went 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA over his final five starts.
"This was not a product or a byproduct of the no-hitter, or at least I don't feel that [it] was in any way, shape or form," Warthen said. "Because he had good velocity and arm strength after that, and it doesn't matter because he never would have let us get him out of the game anyway."
Said manager Terry Collins: "He's going to go down in Mets history as truly one of the great pitchers that's ever been here."
With one season left on his six-year, $137.5 million contract, Santana's time in New York is almost certainly finished. Alderson said that the final year of Santana's contract is not insured, meaning the Mets will still pay him his full $25.5 million salary in 2013, as well as the $5.5 million buyout on the '14 option year of his deal.
"He comes into a clubhouse and the room lights up," Mets right-hander Matt Harvey said. "He doesn't need to really say anything specific baseball-related. His presence just brings leadership, it brings an upbeat atmosphere. Hopefully, he has a speedy recovery whatever decision he decides, but Johan's been tremendous."
The Mets must also decide how to replace Santana in the rotation after already naming Jon Niese the Opening Day starter and sliding Jeremy Hefner into the rotation. But with Shaun Marcum battling a neck injury and Jenrry Mejia shut down for two weeks due to elbow tendinitis, the club's depth chart is thin.
"We'll figure it out," Wright said. "I'm not so much concerned with who's gonna pitch those starts. I think that right now, [Santana is] going through a rough time. We'll figure that out. We've got guys that can step up and get the job done on the field. That's not a concern. For me, the concern is what I feel for Johan."