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Sunday, February 26, 2012
Santana tosses 72 pitches

By Adam Rubin

Johan Santana continued to take steps Sunday toward returning from Sept. 14, 2010 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.

Santana threw his fourth bullpen session of spring training, but this time began to more closely replicate a game.

Santana made 72 throws off a mound overall, pitching coach Dan Warthen said.

At one point, though, righty-hitting Justin Turner and lefty-hitting Omar Quintanilla stood in the batter’s box to give Santana the feel of facing hitters. Santana threw 31 pitches during that portion, with a 4-minute, 46-second break midway through, so that he could simulate pitching two innings in a game.

“The ball looked like it was coming out of his hand good,” Turner said. “It had late movement. The biggest thing for me was how excited he looked on the mound after throwing every pitch and how he was bouncing around. Obviously he felt pretty good about it too. And from standing in the box, from my angle, it looked pretty good as well.”

Terry Collins said Santana would long toss on Wednesday and throw batting practice to Mets hitters on Friday. That will set up Santana to make his first Grapefruit League appearance March 6 against the St. Louis Cardinals in Port St. Lucie.

Collins, like Santana, was pleased with the most-recent session. But the manager acknowledged the real test will be once the actual spring-training games arrive. That is when it becomes far more evident whether Santana can pitch in a regular rotation turn and maintain his arsenal of pitches.

“As I told Dan, when he pitches next week in a game situation, now we’ll find how much time he’s going to need to do it again,” Collins said. “And when he does it again, we’ll see how he reacts from the first time. That’s where we’re going to start to tell what we’ve got.”

Still, Santana was positive about Sunday’s mound activity, even if his location wasn’t precise early on.

Warthen called balls and strikes even though the batters had no intention of swinging. And because Santana’s pitch count was capped, when a 2-1 pitch to Quintanilla missed low and away, Warthen proclaimed: “Groundball to shortstop. Next guy.”

After one pitch, though, Santana blurted: “A beautiful pitch!”

“I was try to keep it entertaining, keep everybody loose -- especially myself,” Santana explained.

He added: “I was waiting for today’s session because I knew were going to warm up and do an up and down type of bullpen where I would throw one inning and I’d sit down and then throw another inning. I feel really good. Today was more of a game situation, where I got a couple of hitters standing up, getting a feel of hitters standing up at the plate and trying to locate my pitches while they’re there. I missed a few of them, but that’s the way we do it. We have to make adjustments, and I’m pretty sure my next time will be better.”