Johan Santana wouldn't give up on pitching for the Mets this season as he talked Friday about his latest setback. But that's not his primary focus, and Santana acknowledged he must think big picture in trying to come back from last September's shoulder surgery.

Given his slow road to recovery and Thursday's diagnosis of shoulder "fatigue," Santana was asked if a better course of action would be to shut himself down for the season. He said that's not something he's prepared to do just yet.

"There is always value because you want to see how you feel and compete at this level," Santana said. "But at the same time, we're doing everything we can to make sure I'm healthy. That's what we worry about. I have to make sure that from one start to another, I recover, I don't feel anything and that I feel good. That's what we're looking for.

Santana believes the shoulder began aching this week because he tried to do "too much, too fast" after his July 28 rehab start for Class A St. Lucie. Santana threw 33 pitches in three innings, then went into his usual between-starts routine: long toss and side session. Evidently, that's too much at this stage, and Santana acknowledged he might have to alter that regimen permanently.

"We can't forget this is rehab," he said. "The toughest thing is recovering from one start to another. That's what we're trying to figure out right now."


General manager Sandy Alderson was encouraged by Thursday's diagnosis, but the Mets are being cautious with Santana.

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The plan is for him to stay with the Mets through the end of the homestand, which wraps Thursday, with maybe some light throwing during that time. When Santana returns to Florida, he'll need time to build arm strength again, and that delay probably will wipe out any chance of a return this season.

Alderson is more worried about having a healthy Santana for spring training in February.

"If we have to go into spring with Johan not having pitched competitively but for the three innings he threw the other day,'' Alderson said, " so be it."