Johan Santana threw off a bullpen mound in Port St. Lucie on Saturday morning, simulating innings. All signs suggest he will be ready for the Opening Day start opposite Atlanta's Tommy Hanson on Thursday at Citi Field, although the Mets will wait until at least Sunday to make a formal announcement.
Team officials have an alternate plan that would have Santana starting Game 5, but the full expectation is Santana will pitch the opener, followed by R.A. Dickey against Jair Jurrjens in Game 2 and Jon Niese against Mike Minor in the series finale.
New York Mets
"Today I had a good day," Santana said. "I warmed up. Everything was good. Then I did a couple of ups and downs [simulating innings] with my bullpen. And I feel great."
Santana's velocity sagged in the first and fifth innings of his start Monday against the Cardinals, and he did not look as free and easy with his motion as he did in today's session. He did up his pitch count to 88 in that Grapefruit League outing against the Cardinals.
"It was a tough day. It was a rough day," Santana said. "I didn't know what to expect. This is the first time I went over 80 pitches -- and even 60, 70 pitches. ... But I was able to battle through it and threw all of my pitches and stayed with my slider and changeup. That's what I was doing, pretty much, at the end of the game last time. I recovered. And today I'm fine."
As for his apparent recovery from Sept. 14, 2010 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, Santana said: "It's great. I mean, I worked hard. To be here right now, and be able to do everything the way it was supposed to be done -- I didn't miss one day -- it's huge for me. But we still have to work. We're not done yet. We're just in the beginning of everything. The season hasn't even started. And I just have to get into that routine where you throw 80-plus, 90-plus pitches every five games. In order to do that, I have to get into a season. And that's what we're looking forward to. But, as of right now, everything feels good and I feel great."
Santana said he did not want to prematurely name himself Opening Day starter and get ahead of himself, even if that's the full expectation. He threw 39 warm-up pitches, then another 32 at a game-like intensity Saturday.
"We've got to go one step at a time, just like we have planned from the beginning," he said. "Things can change from one day to another. We just have to make sure every time that it feels good. And that's the way it has been so far. So if everything goes right, I'll be there."