NEW YORK -- Clad in a bright-orange windbreaker, Johan Santana was spotted handing out supplies on Tuesday to victims of Hurricane Sandy on Coney Island, which still has not recovered from one of the most damaging storms in New York City history.
"He was using his left arm to give out packages," COO Jeff Wilpon quipped.
"So don't worry," Santana added with a grin.
Worry is one thing the Mets no longer have regarding Santana, whose uncertain status dominated last offseason's storyline. The Mets may continue to fret about David Wright and R.A. Dickey as they negotiate long-term contract extensions -- both deals are "in process," according to Wilpon -- but they are confident that Santana, coming off an excellent-turned-sour first season back from surgery, will be at full strength come February.
"I'm just working out, getting back into shape and hoping that we'll be ready for Spring Training," Santana said. "Everything has been fine. I feel really good, and I'm looking forward to next year."
The Mets may never know entirely what happened to Santana after his 134-pitch no-hitter, which quite clearly divided his season and quite literally brought manager Terry Collins to tears. Up until that point, Santana was cruising through his first campaign back from undergoing major surgery on his left shoulder, posting a 2.38 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 21 walks in 68 innings.
But whether it was the career-high 134 pitches, the general wear and tear on his shoulder, or some combination of factors, Santana wilted immediately after his no-no. He gave up six runs in his next outing and went 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA the rest of the way, posting a 15.63 ERA over his final five starts.
With those numbers as a backdrop, Santana battling several nagging injuries and his team no longer in contention, the Mets in August decided to shut down their prized left-hander for the season.
Since that time, Santana has done little but rest. He was home in Fort Myers, Fla., when Hurricane Sandy hit, so the destruction he witnessed on Coney Island this week opened his eyes. The Johan Santana Foundation combined with the Mets Foundation to donate $25,000 to ConeyRecovers.org, a relief and recovery effort for residents and business.
"It's been very emotional," Santana said. "Just to see people still struggling is tough. But at the same time, to see the way everything has been handled and all the help they're getting, it's been good. I'm happy to be a part of it."
Following his stay in New York, Santana will travel to his native Venezuela for the holidays before returning to Fort Myers to begin his throwing program in January. Questions will linger regarding his health, of course, but not to the same extent they did last winter, when he was still less than two years removed from surgery.
These days, in fact, the most significant question surrounding Santana is who might stand beside him in the rotation come Opening Day. Though the Mets boast a strong starting five in Santana, Dickey, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey, general manager Sandy Alderson recently offered the names of Dickey, Niese and Gee as trade candidates. The power-starved Mets are considering trading starting pitching for offense, meaning the rotation could take on a different look by February.
To that end, Wilpon expressed confidence that Alderson will be able to lock up Dickey and Wright to long-term contracts, despite his examination of the trade market.
"It doesn't mean Sandy isn't exploring other things, which is just a backup at this point," Wilpon said. "But he should be doing that. [The media] would be on his case if he wasn't doing that. So he's doing both at the same time. I think we can multitask pretty good with the brains we have in the front office and the amount of people we have working on it."
Santana could have been involved in trade rumors himself if not for the $25.5 million he is owed in 2013, plus a $5 million buyout for 2014. That sort of contract is as untradeable as they come, particularly if he cannot improve upon his performance from last season.
But Santana showed more than a few flashes of greatness in 2012, evidence that perhaps he can return to form for a full year.
No-hitters, after all, tend to leave a lasting impression.
"It was a great, great thing for the whole city, for our team, but that's in the past," Santana said. "I have to look forward. I look forward to getting better and to being a better team and getting to the World Series. That's what we want to do."