Terry Collins isn't ready to shut down Johan Santana

Johan Santana watches from the dugout in the Johan Santana watches from the dugout in the second inning. (August 10, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Terry Collins insisted nothing changed overnight, putting to rest any doubts that Johan Santana will take the mound Friday in the nation's capital.

"I'm planning on, certainly, in five days seeing him back out there," the Mets' manager said before Sunday night's series finale against the Braves at Citi Field.

Talk of Santana's health has resurfaced after Santana's start against Atlanta on Saturday night. The lefthander was roughed up in his return from a three-week stay on the disabled list with an ankle sprain, allowing eight runs and eight hits in his 1 1/3-inning stint, which tied the shortest of his 13-year career.

Santana just hasn't been the same since his June 1 no-hitter, when he tossed a career-high 134 pitches against the Cardinals. He's 3-6 with a 7.98 ERA, having surrendered 39 earned runs in 44 innings, and is 0-4 with a 17.36 ERA in his last four starts.

But Collins isn't thinking about pulling the plug on Santana's season and saving him for the 2013 campaign. At some point, he expects to get together with general manager Sandy Alderson and pitching coach Dan Warthen to discuss the best course of action to help preserve Santana's health.

Don't look for it to happen immediately, though.

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"He's had one start after being out a month or three weeks," Collins said. "Any conversations we have about the future, they are down the road. They are not going to be right now. I think Johan's shoulder is fine. We'll take a look after a few more starts and decide how he's feeling. Is there any more fatigue setting in?

"But right now . . . I haven't talked to Sandy about it, I haven't talked to Dan about it, because I certainly have no plans at the immediate time of shutting Johan Santana down."

Santana's command simply wasn't there, but catcher Josh Thole indicated Sunday that it wasn't all that far off. He attributed Santana's problems mostly to rust and said he should return to normal once he gets back into his usual routine and gets more repetitions.

"A couple of balls came back over the plate and I think the one thing was, he gave up a lot of singles," Thole said. "You start the game with single, single, single, it's going to be tough. It's not like he was just getting whacked around the yard.

"Give those guys some credit because they were getting hits, and that's a hard thing to do, anyway. But I think for him, it's frustrating because he knows what he can do. He's done it. But a couple of balls come over the plate and now all of a sudden, you're down a little bit."

Seeing Santana take the mound every fifth day without getting pounded could do wonders for the Mets' psyches as they play out the remainder of the season. They all know how vital he is to this team and want him to stay in the trenches with them as long as he possibly can.

"He's a big part of this," Thole said. "He really is, believe me. Until you are mathematically eliminated, you give yourself every chance in the world. We've got to snap out of what we are in right now and he's going to hold down the top of the rotation.

"This is a presence you need in your clubhouse, a presence you need on the mound."

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