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02/27/09 5:58 PM EST

Mets delay Johan's Tuesday start

Left-handed ace will not pitch vs. Cards because of sore left elbow

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The condition of the most important elbow in Mets camp, the left elbow of Johan Santana, is virtually unchanged since it prompted the club to cancel his first exhibition-game start. Nonetheless, his next first start has been postponed, too, because the club feels the need to be, in the words of manager Jerry Manuel, "extra, extra, extra" cautious.

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Consequently, Santana will not pitch against the Cardinals on Tuesday. And when he will pitch hasn't been determined, Manuel indicated on Friday. The manager doubts his No. 1 starter will miss an entire turn of the Mets' readily revisable rotation.

Santana experienced tightness in the elbow -- he said it is an annual February occurrence for him -- on Wednesday, so his Friday morning start against the Italian team from the World Baseball Classic was scratched on Thursday. At that point, the plan was for him to throw a light bullpen session on Saturday or Sunday and then make his spring debut on Tuesday.

"We don't need him right now," Manuel said. "That's my ace. If [the delay] is more than a few days, I'm not concerned. It's so early."

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.