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Elation for Johan, Mets felt around baseball

Elation for Johan, Mets felt around baseball

Johan Santana has gained a lot of friends and supporters throughout his 12-year career that has included two Cy Young Awards, four All-Star appearances and league-best totals in ERA and strikeouts three times apiece.

Even with all those accolades, it's what Santana did Friday night -- after sitting out the entire 2011 season following shoulder surgery -- that had players and managers around the league buzzing.

Santana took his 2012 resurgence to an entirely new level, tossing the Mets' first no-hitter in franchise history in an 8-0 win against the Cardinals.

"I am sending a text to him to congratulate him," former teammate Jose Reyes said. "That's the first one. Made history. It's big. That's huge for them. It's good.

"He's the guy who is going to compete the whole game. That's good to see him perform like that after his surgery. He's recovering well. That's good to see him pitch well for that team. He's a good friend of mine. Great guy. Unbelievable teammate."

Despite being one of the most feared pitchers in the game during his time with the Twins from 2000-07, Santana was never able to hold an opponent hitless. He was absolutely dominant from 2004-06, going 55-19 with a 2.75 ERA and leading the league in strikeouts each year with totals of 265, 238 and 245, respectively.

Current Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer remembers a Santana gem or two from their days together in Minnesota, but never anything as impressive as the one he tossed Friday.

"I'm happy for him," said Cuddyer, who was teammates with Santana from 2001-07. "He had a lot of special games with us, but never that big. I'm sure it's a special one for him, and obviously a special one for the Mets."

Special indeed, considering the Mets were one of just two remaining teams (the Padres being the other) that had yet to throw a no-hitter. In the 51st year of the franchise, the drought finally came to an end in front of a hometown crowd at Citi Field.

Angel Pagan, who was Santana's teammate on the Mets from 2008-11, called the southpaw, "One of the best teammates I've ever had.

"I was about to text him before I talked to you guys [the media], just to congratulate him," said Pagan. "He's come a long way from the injury, and when you come a long way like that, that's a good thing. He deserves it. He's a horse out there, he competes."

Pagan is in his first season with the Giants.

"Johan's one of those guys where he'll be joking around in the clubhouse, but whenever it's game on, it's game on," said Pagan. "You know how he is. With his game face, you won't ever recognize him. Whenever we play ball and it's time to pitch, he'll focus and be a different guy, and he'll beat you."

"Oh, I'm really happy for them," said current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who managed the Mets from 1996-2002. "That's been an albatross for that franchise and the pitching and New York Mets franchise forever, since '62. One of the best pitchers they ever had threw it, and that also gives a lot of credibility to it."

Word spread quickly throughout the league of Santana's feat, reaching Pirates manager -- and former Mets player -- Clint Hurdle in the dugout during his team's 8-2 win in Milwaukee.

"I think it's awesome, really do. It's great, they've had so many great pitchers there," Hurdle said. "For that to never get knocked off the to-do list, [it's] been a long time coming. When I heard about it, I'm going in the dugout, 'Yeah, thataway, good for them, for everybody. Good for Johan.'"

The joy spread even further beyond Johan's current and former teammates or current and former Mets, though. Marlins manager and fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen offered his stamp of approval on the accomplishment Friday night, as well.

"Very proud. Very proud. Just because a Venezuelan did that. What he went through the last couple of years -- battled back, hard work. Never give up," Guillen said. "He didn't care how much money he was making. This kid is a bulldog. Nothing you can say about him.

"I'm very proud. I'm very proud to be his friend. I'm very proud to be his countryman. They should be proud. First no-hitter for the Mets. Special night for them."

It's easy for guys like Cuddyer to appreciate Santana as a teammate and friend after the two spent the primes of their careers together in Minnesota. What might be more telling, though, is Santana's ability to leave an impression on someone like Rod Barajas, who was teammates with Santana for less than a full season in 2010.

"I am excited, especially for Johan," said the now-Pirates catcher, who caught 14 games for Santana that season. "He's such a great guy, a great teammate, and has been one of the premier pitchers in this game for a while. I'm excited for him. I'm happy he was the one able to break that curse."

Paul Casella is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
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