PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
The Mets hoped Johan Santana might pitch in a spring training game next week, which would have given him an outside chance to start on Opening Day, as originally planned. But after Santana felt fatigue in his left shoulder Saturday, he did not participate in workouts with the rest of the team, yet another sign that the two-time Cy Young Award winner could begin the season on the disabled list.
"Due to the fact he's been throwing and throwing, there might be a little fatigue in there, and that's why I told him today stay in there and make sure to do some stuff to work on your shoulder," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Collins said Santana felt no new discomfort in his shoulder. But while the rest of his teammates participated in workouts outdoors, Santana spent the day indoors to do shoulder exercises to bolster strength and flexibility.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said he approached Santana about taking charge of his own rehab schedule -- as long as he agreed not to risk a major setback by rushing the process.
"I finally went to him and said you know, if we're pushing things, then let's go ahead and go at your pace," Warthen said. "Don't look at my chart. You tell me what you want."
The grind of pitching 117 innings before his shutdown last season prompted Santana to cut back on his offseason throwing. After devoting his previous winters enduring rigorous rehab, the two-time Cy Young Award winner hoped the time off would serve his body well.
Instead, Santana surprised team officials when he arrived at camp unprepared to begin normal workouts. After two bullpen sessions in which Santana lacked strength in his shoulder, the Mets halted his throwing program and then questioned the change in his offseason routine.
The comments last week irked Santana, who threw an unscheduled bullpen session last Sunday, his attempt to quell any doubts about his physical condition. Warthen said Santana bounced back strong from the mound session, which he followed with a light throwing session Wednesday. Santana, who has yet to address the situation publicly, also continued a long-toss program.
Until Saturday, all of his work appeared to put him in line for game action.
"We're going to go day-to-day, and when he's ready to go, then that's going to be the day he goes," Warthen said. "We don't want to rush anything. We don't have to take any chances of getting a setback, so in everybody's mind's eye, it's going to have to be on Johan."
Santana's absence will test the Mets' starting pitching depth. The Mets have used an average of 11 starting pitchers in each of the last four seasons, including 13 last season, when nagging injuries forced Santana to stop pitching in August.
Jeremy Hefner stands near the front of the line of a group of pitchers in the mix to step in for Santana if needed. The righthander tossed three shutout innings in Saturday's 9-6 victory over the Astros.
"Everything feels good, my arm feels good, so I was pleased," Hefner said.
Fellow righthanders Collin McHugh and Jenrry Mejia, both of whom saw action with the Mets last season, also figure to be in the mix to work out of the rotation if Santana isn't ready to go. But Hefner appears positioned for the first chance.
"His command's been very good, his change of speed has been good, he's done a nice job," Collins said. "Certainly, coming into this camp, in a lot of people's minds he was our No. 6 guy. So certainly he's going to continue to pitch. If we need a guy, we know he's going to be ready."
With Santana down, lefthander Jonathon Niese likely will start against the Padres on Opening Day April 1.