NEW YORK -- It was a small step in a long process, a minor achievement from a baseball perspective. But symbolically, Johan Santana's bullpen session Friday gave the Mets their greatest reason yet for optimism heading into the 2012 season.
"I finally had a chance to get on the mound and throw to a catcher ... and I felt really good," Santana told reporters following his session in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "The approach that we had from the beginning was to do everything like I always do to get ready for the season. For me, it's about time to get on the mound and start throwing. And I was able to throw all of my pitches, and it felt good after that."
In his first mound action since last season, Santana threw 25 pitches, mixing in fastballs, changeups and curves. He is scheduled to throw off a mound again on Tuesday.
The Mets are operating under the assumption that Santana will be able to assume a regular spring workload and be ready for Opening Day.
"I'm not afraid of anything," Santana said. "I'm actually excited about being out on the mound and being able to start competing."
After Santana underwent anterior capsule surgery in his left shoulder in September 2010, the Mets expected him to return by the 2011 All-Star break. But multiple setbacks blocked his path, and Santana ultimately shut himself down for the season last October following a second Minor League rehab stint.
Santana has gone 40-25 with a 2.85 ERA since joining the Mets prior to the 2008 season. He has two years and $54.5 million of guaranteed money left on his contract, with a $25 million team option for 2014.
If healthy, Santana is the heavy favorite to start Opening Day for the Mets, anchoring a rotation that also includes R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.