NEW YORK -- Mets pitcher Johan Santana is three weeks into his normal offseason throwing program, general manager Sandy Alderson said Thursday, throwing off flat ground on consecutive days from a distance of 75 feet.
Santana is now 16 months removed from the left shoulder surgery that forced him to miss all of last season.
"He's in a normal progression for Spring Training," Alderson said on a conference call Thursday to introduce new relievers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. "We expect to see him in Spring Training, and he should be ready to go at that point."
Though reports toward the end of last summer suggested that Santana was close to regaining his old form and velocity, the true test will be his ability to recover between outings as he settles back into a five-day schedule. Alderson raised eyebrows last month when he called Santana "a question mark" heading into Spring Training, given the struggles of similar pitchers who have undergone anterior shoulder capsule surgery -- most notably Mark Prior and Chien-Ming Wang.
"I didn't want to set off alarms the last time I talked about this, but we are talking about somebody who's coming off a long rehab," Alderson said. "I think ultimately the questions are going to be answered in Spring Training, not beforehand."
Santana, whom the Mets owe no less than $54.5 million over the next three years, has compiled a 40-25 record and 2.85 ERA in three seasons since joining the club. He is scheduled to report to Spring Training on or before Feb. 20, the deadline for Mets pitchers and catchers.