PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — It appears more and more likely that Johan Santana will be headed to the disabled list after the New York Mets again pushed back the schedule for their ace to make his spring training debut.
Santana didn't pitch in the major leagues in 2011 following shoulder surgery, then went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts last year, when he pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1 against St. Louis. The 33-year-old left-hander didn't pitch after Aug. 17 because of lower back inflammation and did not throw much during the offseason.
The Mets say he doesn't have enough arm strength for exhibition games.
"Right now, it's day to day with Johan," Mets manager Terry Collins said after Saturday's 9-6 win over the Houston Astros. "We certainly would hope something next week, but if it's not, it's not. Again, part of our conversation is, he's ready when he's ready."
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had said March 2 that Santana needed 10 more days to build up arm strength before he could appear in a spring training game.
Santana did not work out with the team Saturday, instead opting to do more arm and shoulder stretches inside the training complex.
Collins already has looked at the schedule for the first week of the season, which includes a day off on April 2 following the opener against San Diego.
"We've been trying to look down the road," Collins said. "Due to the day off, the one day off, be it the case that Jo is not one of those first five guys, we don't need a fifth guy until the seventh. Again, we're just taking it day by day right now."
If Santana is put on the 15-day DL during spring training, the earliest he could be activated would be April 7.
Mets starter Jeremy Hefner could be a beneficiary of Santana's health issues and take over a starting slot early in the season. Hefner allowed one hit in three scoreless innings against Houston.
"The last couple outings, continuing back to about his last two or three starts last year, he's been outstanding," Collins said. "His command has been very good, his change of speeds have been good; he's done a nice job. Certainly coming into this camp, in a lot of people's minds, he was our No. 6 guy. Certainly he's going to continue to pitch and if we need a guy, we know he's going to be ready."
Hefner is not preparing any differently because of Santana's arm issue.