Mets ace Johan Santana struggles in 3rd spring start

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana never quite found his footing in this exhibition outing.

The New York Mets' ace struggled for the first time this spring and was pulled in the third inning Friday in a 9-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Santana, who was out of the majors last year while recovering from shoulder surgery, had not allowed a run in his first two exhibition starts. But Friday, the two-time Cy Young Award winner gave up five runs -- four earned -- on four hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. He didn't have any strikeouts.

"It was a challenge out there," Santana said. "They made me work, but I felt good. I was able to throw some fastballs with more intensity this time and I'm feeling good. It's a process and I'm building up."

"I was trying to adjust to the mound. I was landing on my heel and trying to flatten it a little bit so I would get more comfortable. But at the same time I was competing out there and these guys are swinging and challenging me," he said. "I was trying to make some adjustments, but I was fine. Today was the first time in a long time I went over 60 pitches and it was all right."

Santana retired the Tigers in order on just 14 pitches in the first inning, but threw 26 pitches in the second and 25 more in the third. Mets manager Terry Collins said Santana was fatigued after the second.

"It's one of those things you some see pitchers do," Collins said. "They pound the strike zone, pound the strike zone, and they're fouling, fouling, and they can't get those low-pitch outs and it probably wore him down a bit. But the bright spot was he came out good, he came out healthy."

Prince Fielder flied out to lead off the second, but seven of the next 10 Detroit batters reached base.

Santana appeared to be uncomfortable, especially during a four-pitch walk to Ramon Santiago in the third. After each of the last few pitches to Santiago, Santana kept digging at a spot on the mound with his foot, prompting Collins to come out of the dugout to see if something was wrong with the dirt.

Santana said the mound was soft.

"Those are things to adjust to. That's what I was trying to do, to make that adjustment right away. Today was a challenge," he said.

The Tigers scored four runs in the third, highlighted by Delmon Young's two-run single. Young had two hits, including a double, and scored twice.

Clete Thomas added a triple and scored two runs while Fielder had a RBI and scored a run.

Detroit starter Rick Porcello threw four scoreless innings, giving up four hits and striking out three.

"The results were good," Porcello said. "Just continuing to go out there and try to throw quality strikes. I had decent feel for the changeup and slider that was a plus. I'm making progress. I'm just trying to make steps forward and get ready. At the same time, I'm trying to keep that mental, competitive approach out there and get guys out."