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Thursday, March 1, 2012
Johan Santana throws 40 pitches

By Adam Rubin
ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Third baseman David Wright spotted teammate Johan Santana on Field 7 at the New York Mets' spring-training complex, as the left-hander was readying to face batters for the first time since autumn.

"Oooooh, yeah!" Wright shouted in Santana's direction, excited by his return.

Santana proceeded to throw 40 pitches to Mets hitters, including Wright, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy during a pair of simulated innings Thursday.

It was Santana's first time in a game-like setting since being shut down for winter rest following late-September action against Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins minor leaguers in the instructional league in Fort Myers, Fla., where he lives.

Santana labeled Tuesday's session "good."

"It's just another spring training. That's the way I'm approaching everything," he added. "It's just another spring training trying to get ready, doing the things I used to do, and don't try to do anything crazy. ... Today I was looking how my arm feels pitch after pitch with more intensity, and also how I recover from one inning to another more than anything. And being able to throw all my pitches is what I was looking for."

Santana, who did not appear in the majors last season, is trying to return from surgery he had Sept. 14, 2010, to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.

He is scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League start Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said Santana will throw two innings in the exhibition game, with his desired pitch count in the 25- to 35-pitch range. Manager Terry Collins plans for Santana to start Opening Day, April 5, against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

Still, Collins acknowledged, how Santana's shoulder recovers from Tuesday's appearance -- and whether he can pitch every fifth day throughout spring training and into the season -- remains a major unanswered question.

"We're all pointing to see him on Tuesday," Collins said. "Wednesday he's going to be stiff. We know that. So that's kind of an off-day. But you're talking about the Thursday, Friday, times (next week) when he's got to throw again on the side -- that in-between start -- and see how he comes back after that. That's obviously going to be a huge turning point for us."

Collins was among those pleased with what they saw from Santana throwing batting practice Thursday.

"Nice going, Johan," the manager told Santana after the late-morning session.

"I'm sure he's not throwing his Opening Day stuff, just like we're not hitting our Opening Day at-bats too," Davis said. "But his changeup was nasty. I almost broke my bat. His fastball, he threw it by me. And he was hitting his spots. It doesn't look like he had any trouble. No pain. It's a good thing."

Said Murphy: "He wasn't 92, 93 mph, I wouldn't think. But, again, it's March 1. We're more concerned about arm slot, getting out front, working all of his pitches. He's still going to have, what, four starts before the season? He'll have plenty of time to work into velocity and stuff like that. But as long as you've got that changeup in your back pocket, he's going to be all right. ... He was crisp. He looked really good."

There were no radar guns on Santana.

Regardless, Warthen noted that most pitchers -- Santana included -- see a bump in velocity of 1 mph or 2 mph when they move from a back field to a Grapefruit League game. There's even more adrenaline and more velocity gained from the first exhibition start to the first regular-season outing -- typically another 2 mph to 3 mph, according to Warthen.

Warthen said Santana was throwing strongly on flat ground at distances of up to 240 feet leading into the batting-practice session, a sign Santana is confident in his shoulder's health.

"Leaving spring training, most everybody is going to gain a couple of miles per hour," Warthen said. "As soon as you go into a night game, you get 40,000 people, you automatically do that. ... So I think he's exactly where he needs to be right now."

As for his goal for Tuesday, Santana said: "That I'll throw my two innings without any problem, and I'll be able to come back for my next outing. That's what I'm looking for. That's the process that I want to go through -- build up from one start to another and see if I'm able to recover so I'm able to go back again five days later."

Murphy could tell by Santana's banter with teammates and body language that he felt good.

"Any time you see that, you don't want to read into things too much, but he feels good," Murphy said. "When my knee is banged up, I don't go out there laughing a lot."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.