What’s next for Johan Santana?

In last night’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals, Johan Santana allowed six runs and seven hits with four strikeouts in only five innings.

Santana became the first pitcher in club history to allow six or more runs in five consecutive starts.

“Early in the game his command was good, but just all of a sudden he left some balls over the plate. I thought he was very good. … There is a light at the end of the tunnel because you know he is healthy.”

Santana fell to 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts this season – Santana has lost his last five starts and has a 15.63 ERA in only 19 innings over that span.

Dan Warthen indicated there will be a discussion taking place as to whether or not the team will shutdown Santana for the remainder of the season.

“Certainly we’ll talk about it,” Warthen said. “Sandy and Terry and I will go in, and we’ll talk. But I was so encouraged by the outing tonight, outside of the score and us losing. But the first three innings being perfect baseball, and we’re seeing a strong, solid, average fastball.”

Santana didn’t dismiss the possibility of being shutdown for the remainder of the season.

“I don’t know. The next outing, we’ll see what the whole situation will be,” Santana explained. “Right now, I feel fine. We’ll see the next couple days what they have to say, or what we are going to do. … Whatever they want to do, as long as it works out for everybody in the long term, I think it will be fine.”

Since his no-hitter on June 1, Santana has gone 3-7 with a 8.27 ERA over ten starts, and is averaging just under five innings per start over that span.

Michael Baron, Contributor

For the first time since he’s been here, Santana did not sound like a man with a lot of confidence last night. The fact he wouldn’t dismiss being shutdown is indicative of that, or some other problem. I trust that he’s healthy, considering he has consistent fastball velocity and he keeps running himself out there. And, as Warthen said, Santana was vintage for the first three innings, getting his change-up to dive down through the strike zone and he had outstanding movement on his fastball on both sides of the plate. But the wheels fell off the wagon after that, and he lost complete command of everything that came out of his hand yet again.

At this point, the team has no choice but to consider shutting him down for the rest of the season. They have to find a way to maximize what they can get out of Santana and the $31 million they have invested in him for next season – running him out there when he may not have much left in the tank might not be the best way to do that. On the flip side, as both Gary Cohen and Ron Darling suggested last night, if they do in fact shut Santana down, there’s no way for him to work his way out of this funk, nor would he have the ability to evolve into the pitcher he needs to become in order to extend his career. It’s not an envious position to be in by any means, and I don’t think either option is particularly great. In either case, there’s no question Santana has reached a low point and a crossroad of sorts in his career. Whether it’s now or next season, he will have to make some key adjustments going forward in order to be an effective Major League pitcher going forward.