Though much could change between now and Aug. 27, when Santana's 30-day Minor League rehab assignment will expire, the Mets have at least had preliminary discussions of expanding their rotation to six members once he returns. No one in the current rotation has pitched poorly enough to warrant an obvious demotion.
The decision could also hinge upon whether the Mets are still in playoff contention at the time, or playing with an eye toward 2012.
Firing three scoreless innings in his first rehab start Thursday, Santana is scheduled to pitch again for Class A St. Lucie on Wednesday. The Mets expect him to advance to the higher levels of the Minor Leagues at some point next month, as Santana continues to build arm strength following last September's surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.
"It seems like he has some life on his pitches," said Mets third baseman David Wright, who took batting practice against Santana during his own recent injury rehab in Florida. "The first time I faced him, it wasn't very hard. And the next time was OK. And the next time was actually pretty good stuff. I know for a fact he's on the right track."