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47° Good Afternoon

Santana will make first start against Astros on March 9

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Jerry Manuel announced after Monday's intrasquad game that Johan Santana will make his first start March 9, which is against the Astros at Tradition Field.

None of the expected starters - aside from No. 5 candidates Jonathon Niese and Fernando Nieve - have been listed on the Mets' probables through Friday, but Manuel plans to use Santana as the marker for the rest of the rotation.

"I think we'll work around Santana," Manuel said. "We'll work all those guys around that, before or after."

Santana was delayed last year by tendinitis in his triceps muscle, but he traditionally likes to begin a little later. Under Manuel's schedule, Santana will still get his five spring-training starts, which line him up for the April 5 opener against the Marlins at Citi Field.

After Santana, the Mets could use the same alignment as last season, which had Mike Pelfrey second, followed by Oliver Perez and John Maine as a way to split up the lefthanders. That still would seem to make the most sense, especially if Niese winds up with the No. 5 job.


Takahashi impresses

Hisanori Takahashi was moved up to pitch in yesterday's intrasquad because visa problems prevented him from appearing in any revenue games as he was originally scheduled. Despite the reshuffling, Takahashi had a solid debut, striking out four in two innings and allowing a solo home run to Jason Pridie.

"He threw strikes," Manuel said. "That's very important."

With the Mets leaning toward Niese for the fifth starter's job, Takahashi may be considered for a bullpen role, perhaps long relief if Nieve contends for the eighth-inning spot.


Extra bases

Francisco Rodriguez, who has been suffering from a nasty bout of pinkeye, was examined by a local doctor Monday and the Mets are awaiting the results before determing when he can rejoin his teammates during workouts . . . Jason Bay did not play in the intrasquad game, but he will start in today's Grapefruit opener. Bay will bat fifth, behind David Wright. Ike Davis will start at first base and bat eighth . . . Wright and Jose Reyes each had two RBIs to lead the home Mets over the visiting Mets, 4-1, in yesterday's intrasquad. Jenrry Mejia pitched two scoreless innings and struck out two.

New York Sports