PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As the Mets packed up their belongings around him, Johan Santana stood at his locker, feeling more isolated than he's ever been this time of year. For the first time in 11 seasons, Santana will spend Opening Day on the disabled list, and without much of a clue when he actually will pitch again in the majors.
"I can't think too far ahead," Santana said Wednesday. "When you're in the situation that I'm in, you have to go slow and steady. It's tough because I'm supposed to be one of them, but the reality is that I'm not. This is the way it is."
Santana is in the middle of a lengthy rehab from Sept. 14 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, an injury that threatens to rob the Mets of their $137.5-million ace for most of this season. The most optimistic projections have Santana returning at some point in July.
But it's so early in the process that no one really can give an accurate prediction. Santana is playing long toss from a distance of 75 feet and needs to build up more arm strength before getting on a mound. As for Opening Day, he's used to pitching in those games, not watching on TV.
"There's always a first time," Santana said. "I don't know how difficult it's going to be, but it's going to be difficult. That's for sure."
Infielder Luis Hernandez cleared waivers Wednesday and was outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo. Earlier this month, Hernandez had emerged as a favorite of Terry Collins for second base, but the manager was overruled by the front office. Pat Misch also cleared and was ticketed for Buffalo, but had yet to decide if he would report.