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Blister to blame for Santana's struggles?

Johan Santana tied a career-high by serving up four homers to the Phillies last week and turned in the worst start of his career against the Yankees yesterday, allowing nine runs while failing to make it out of the fourth inning.

After watching Santana get clobbered for the second straight start, pitching coach Dan Warthen suggested that a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand may be to blame by changing the grip on his fastball:

He's fought through it for almost a month, but now that it's healed, the ball plane has changed. It's going to decrease the velocity if it's cutting like it is. The two-seamer is cutting at times also. Physically, he's in good shape. And the arm feels good. We just have to find out what the delivery issue is right now.

Santana dealt with blisters and cracked finger nails at various times in Minnesota, but insisted yesterday that the latest issue is not a big deal. His velocity is indeed down, but only slightly, as his fastball averaged 90.1 miles per hour during the past two starts compared to 90.9 mph for the season overall.

Of course, 90.9 mph is the worst fastball speed of his career and his average velocity has dropped from 93.1 to 91.7 to 91.2 to 90.9 since his Cy Young-winning 2006 campaign. All eyes will be on Santana when he takes the mound next against the Rays this weekend, but in the meantime I'll pass along a bit of encouraging history for Mets fans.

The last time that Santana allowed five or more runs in back-to-back starts was in July of 2003, which was his first month as a full-time member of the Twins' rotation. He shook off those struggles to go 8-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 11 starts to finish the season. As the world's biggest Santana fan I'm hoping that history repeats itself.

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