Johan shooting to pitch Opening Day
Mets ace tosses 46-pitch bullpen session Wednesday
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After throwing 46 pitches in his seventh bullpen session of the spring and speaking with his pitching coach and a member of the media relations department, Johan Santana said on Wednesday he is making progress and that his objective is to start the Mets' Opening Day game on April 6.
In saying so, Santana added a degree of certainty to a scenario that has been quite lacking in that regard. Pitching coach Dan Warthen, who had interjected some doubt into the Opening Day scenario, was pleased by what he saw in the morning session -- the Mets' primary starter throwing breaking balls as well as fastballs and changeups -- and said, "I have no problem modifying the schedule."
So there it is, the possibility of a modified schedule and the endorsement of manager Jerry Manuel, who saw none of Santana's pitches.
"Right now, as we sit here in March, knowing what we've got ahead, I'd like to see him start Opening Day," Manuel said in Viera, Fla., after the Mets' exhibition game.
"Johan knows Johan, and he assures me that he'll be ready for Opening Day. So I have to agree with that. I don't see any reason why there should be any different plans than that. Not this first week in March when he just lit your eyes up on the sideline. You have templates that you like to follow. Everybody don't fit those templates. That's why he is who he is. They don't fit him."
But no modified schedule will be put in place until the club determines how Santana's body -- elbow and other parts -- responds to the most ambitious bullpen session thus far. And if changes are made, the resulting schedule will not be rigid.
"Right now, my mind-set is for Opening Day," Santana said. "I'm a professional. I know exactly what it takes for me to be ready. I've been doing this for a long time. I'm pretty sure I'll be ready."
Santana noted he had endured no setbacks, other than last week, when stiffness in his left elbow prompted him to excuse himself from a scheduled one-inning start against the Italian team from the World Baseball Classic.
Warthen had established a schedule Tuesday that had Santana not making a start in an exhibition game until March 18, leaving merely 18 days between that game and the Mets' first game, against the Reds in Cincinnati on April 6. Warthen discussed the possibility of Santana making his first regular-season start in the Mets' second series, in Florida against the Marlins.
Warthen didn't discount the possibility of Santana starting on Opening Day or starting the second game, two days later. The latter scenario would have had Santana in line to start the first regular-season game at Citi Field on April 13.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.