The Orioles lost their primary starting-rotation insurance Friday afternoon when veteran left-hander Johan Santana tore his left Achilles tendon in Sarasota, Fla., ending his 2014 season.
At 35, Santana's playing future also may be in jeopardy
"I know the rehab is significant for these tendon injuries, and we'll have to get with him and speak to him," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said. "But he won't be able to pitch for the Orioles this season."
Santana, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner with the Minnesota Twins, in 2004 and 2006, had been rehabilitating from his second surgery on his left shoulder in a three-year span, and was on the verge of returning to the majors.
After Friday's extended spring training outing, he was supposed to go to Double-A Bowie on an injury rehab assignment and, if things went well, then join the Orioles' rotation in two weeks. The hope was that Santana, who is 139-78 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 big league seasons, would provide a much-needed boost for a lagging rotation.
"It's unfortunate. We were looking for Johan's leadership and also his pedigree from being a winning pitcher to come back and be added to the team," Duquette said. "Now we'll have to look for that capability somewhere else."
Santana was supposed to throw between 75 and 85 pitches in one final extended spring training outing Friday, but on his 33rd pitch, he was struck on the left gluteus by a liner. When he attempted to retrieve the ball, he tore his left Achilles tendon. He limped off the field with assistance.
Santana, who had allowed one hit while striking out three and walking none in three innings, underwent an MRI on Friday read by doctors Mike Jacobs and Brian Schofield.
"They confirmed the tendon was severed, and that, in effect, would end his season," Duquette said.
Santana signed a minor league deal in February that would have paid him $3 million for making the 25-man roster; he could have earned up to $5 million based on incentives.
That contract, however, had a June 1 opt-out clause under which he could become a free agent. Not wanting to lose Santana, the Orioles agreed to place him on the 40-man roster Monday, then put him on the 15-day disabled list, with the expectation that he would be an Oriole soon. He now likely will be moved to the 60-day DL to create another spot on the 40-man roster.
Duquette has made midseason trades for starting pitching in the past two years, picking up Joe Saunders in 2012 and Scott Feldman and Bud Norris in 2013. He was hoping Santana would be this year's addition.
"I was looking at it like a midseason acquisition or trade. And we invested in the rehab and we invested in the salary. Of course, we wouldn't have to trade a player. Unfortunately, it didn't work," Duquette said. "Sometimes you can plan and do things right and things don't work out. Unfortunately, it's an injury; the timing is not good. We'll have to look at other options in terms of pitching."