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The Week Ahead: Eyes on 2012 Draft, Johan

The Week Ahead: Eyes on 2012 Draft, Johan

The Week Ahead: Eyes on 2012 Draft, Johan
No Mets pitcher had ever thrown a no-hitter, which means no Mets pitcher has had to follow up on a no-hitter. Not that Johan Santana is complaining, but that's the position the venerable veteran left-hander will find himself in when he takes the mound for his next scheduled start.

Our people tell us that will happen Thursday, with New York manager Terry Collins hoping to get the schedule for his starting rotation nailed down after bullpen sessions on Monday. It should be the most-anticipated game on the big-league slate for the week to come as we steam on into June, and the temperatures on the field and in the division races continue to climb.

Don't get us wrong, there is a very important event taking place Monday through Wednesday. The futures of every Major League team will be affected by the First-Year Player Draft, which begins Monday when the Houston Astros make the first selection at 7 p.m. ET and are followed by the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners.

Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Days 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker -- a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter, and you can get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Yet, throughout the week, the season will continue to be contested in Major League ballparks of America, and that is all about the present. To wit, whether he pitches Thursday against the Nationals or Friday against the Yankees, Santana will try to make like Johnny Vander Meer, the only Major Leaguer to ever throw two consecutive no-nos (June 11 and June 15, 1938).

OK, so it might not be the most realistic of potential outcomes, especially after it took 134 pitches and a questionable call by third-base umpire Adrian Johnson to get the job done Friday night. But there's no questioning that it might have galvanized the Mets. They've won both of their games since then, enter Monday with a 32-23 record and a share of the three-way pie that is the virtual tie atop the National League East. For a pitcher who's come back from shoulder woes the way Santana has, the whole experience has been extra special.

"If we go back to Spring Training ... there were a lot of question marks," Santana said. "'Could he be the same pitcher he used to be?' I don't know. And I still don't know. But one thing I can tell you is that every time I go out there, I'll compete. ... That's what I do."

So do the White Sox. One of the major developing stories has been their sudden resurgence under rookie manager Robin Ventura. Having a pitcher like Chris Sale also hasn't hurt.

Sale struck out 15 batters in his first start last week and then went the distance in his first complete game on Sunday, beating the Mariners, 4-2, and lifting Chicago into a comfortable lead in the American League Central. Ventura's team enters the week 2 1/2 games ahead of the Indians and six games ahead of the preseason favorite Detroit Tigers.

Sale has already been compared to Randy Johnson and will take that emerging reputation to the mound this week when the 23-year-old left-hander faces the Astros in Houston on Saturday.

"He was great," Ventura said of Sale. "He's jumping ahead and making guys swing and miss. He keeps getting better, if there's any way to do that after 15 strikeouts. He's a talented kid with a lot of guts and everything else."

Guts and everything else is a good way to describe the way the Los Angeles Dodgers have managed to stay in first place in the National League West, but last week was a challenge. The team went 1-6, losing their best player, Matt Kemp, to the disabled list again, while still having regulars Mark Ellis, Juan Rivera, Juan Uribe, starter Ted Lilly and more on the DL.

This week doesn't figure to get any easier. Los Angeles visits Philadelphia for a four-game set and then takes its act to Seattle to play the Mariners. The Dodgers will try to get their 12-12 road record above .500 in the process.

"I don't think there's a person here pushing a panic button," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "Someone said today is officially the end of the first third of the season. There's two-thirds to go. I think our first third was pretty darn good."

Almost anyone could say that in the AL East, where it seems to get wackier and more competitive by the day.

Another week ended with all five clubs above .500, and another week begins with intra-division competition. The first-place Rays are off to Yankee Stadium, the second-place Orioles are off to Fenway Park, and the Blue Jays -- the only East team not facing an East opponent -- get to go to Chicago on Monday and play the hottest team in baseball, the White Sox.

Doug Miller is a senior writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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