VIERA, Fla. -- Johan Santana and Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had a meeting earlier this week to clear the air about Santana's preparation to pitch this season -- whenever that may be.

"I spoke with him two or three days ago," Alderson said Wednesday after the Mets' 8-5 loss to the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. "Just to make sure that we were on the same page. He understood from our standpoint he would be ready when he's ready. There wouldn't really be any further comment about it, in terms of a precise date that he was ready to pitch. So if that was 'clearing the air,' that was clearing the air, I guess."

Earlier, according to the Daily News, Santana told reporters in Port St. Lucie: "Yeah, we talked. Everything was fine. We had meetings and stuff, and we were on the same page. As long as we're on the same page, I'm fine. I'm not going to get into details about what we talked [about]."

There has been tension surrounding Santana in Mets camp since March 2, when Alderson told that the lefthander did not report to spring training in "pitching shape."

Santana, whose 2012 season ended in August, bristled at the suggestion he didn't work hard enough during the offseason to rehab his troublesome shoulder. He threw a surprise bullpen session the next day, the only time he has been on a mound this spring.

On Wednesday, manager Terry Collins said Santana was "not too close." The Opening Day start he would have made is expected to go to Jonathon Niese. Collins wouldn't rule Santana out for the first turn of the Mets' rotation, but no timetable can be set until Santana gets back on a mound. Jeremy Hefner is the leading candidate to replace him in the rotation.

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Santana turned 34 Wednesday; he was presented with a cake in a short ceremony attended by his teammates in a conference room off the Mets clubhouse.

Santana is in the last guaranteed year of his contract and will be paid $25.5 million for 2013 plus $5.5 million to buy out his $25-million option for 2014. That's a guaranteed $31 million whether he pitches or not this season. The Mets would prefer he does, but they are letting him set his own pace.

"He's the only one who can determine whether he's ready to pitch," Alderson said. "So if that means he's on his own schedule, he's the only one that can decide when he's going to be ready. From that standpoint, we are doing everything we can to get him ready and he's doing everything he can to be ready."

Asked if he felt the need to clear the air with Santana, Alderson said: "Not from my standpoint, but perhaps from his. Whatever purpose it served, we had a conversation . . . I think what was important was making sure we understood how the program was going to go forward."

Collins said he was not at all concerned with the controversy surrounding Santana.

"It has nothing to do with me," Collins said. "He's never had to explain anything to me. I'm glad they did it. I know they had a conversation. Didn't know anything about it. Don't ask, don't care."