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Johan Santana faces extended absence

Johan Santana talks to the media during spring

Johan Santana talks to the media during spring training at Tradition Field. (Feb. 12, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana's spring training saga appears headed for its inevitable conclusion. The Mets lefthander told reporters on Saturday morning that his left shoulder is still ailing and that he has no timeline for a return, the latest indication that he could be facing an extended absence.

Manager Terry Collins acknowledged on Friday night that Santana will not join the Mets in New York to begin the season. All that remains is for the team to officially place the 34-year-old lefty on the disabled list -- a virtual certainty now.

"I’m making progress," Santana told reporters. "It’s just I don’t know when I’m going to be pitching again. That’s the thing: We cannot think ahead. The way we’re approaching everything is every day make sure we have a good day.”

Even assuming that Santana has no setbacks, he may need a few weeks just to get back on a pitcher's mound. Santana has spent most of the month long-tossing to rebuild strength in his surgically repaired left shoulder, however he told reporters that he's only throwing at 90 feet. Typically, Santana would need to be throwing at double that distance to even consider taking the next step by throwing off a mound

"He's not where he needs to be in his long-toss program," Collins said on Friday.

Santana rankled team officials by arriving at camp well behind schedule, the product of his decision to limit his offseason work to allow his body to bounce back after spending much of the previous two years rehabbing from major shoulder surgery. He has yet to pitch in a Grapefruit League game, another factor that will eventually extend his absence.

The red flags began popping up in the earliest days of spring:

Feb. 19 -- Santana threw his second bullpen session, though he showed signs of shoulder weakness that eventually caused the team to slow down his throwing program.

March 2 -- The team expressed its displeasure about Santana's status. General manager Sandy Alderson said Santana would need 10 more days until pitching in a Grapefruit League game.

March 3 -- Santana threw 15 pitches during an unplanned bullpen session -- his way of proving that he felt healthy. It was his first session of a mound in nearly two weeks.

March 4 -- Collins called Santana's mound session "unnecessary," though according to pitching coach Dan Warthen, the pitcher bounced back well.

March 6 -- Santana threw off a mound though it was mostly during fielding practice. Collins expressed confidence that Santana could start first Grapefruit League game around March 15.

March 9 -- Feeling the effects of shoulder fatigue, Santana stayed indoors for exercises and treatment instead of working out with team. He continued his long-toss throwing program in hopes of building up shoulder strength.

March 21 -- The Mets announce Jon Niese as the Opening Day starter, an assignment that had originally been given to Santana.

March 22 -- Collins acknowledged that Santana would remain with in Florida when the team broke camp.

Santana is in the final seasons of a six-year, $137-million contract. The former Cy Young Award winner still guaranteed $31 million, which includes a $5.5 million buyout for the 2014 season.


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