PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Johan Santana, in his first official mound session since his elbow surgery last September, threw 24 pitches over six minutes at the Mets' minor-league complex Tuesday morning.

He looked fine physically, although nowhere close to full strength.

"It's big for me," Santana told reporters. "I feel very happy."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Santana described himself as "way ahead of the game," physically. The Mets' plan, he said, calls for him to start pitching in exhibition games in the second week of March, and be ready to pitch the Mets' regular-season opener April 5 against Florida.

>> Johan Santana photos