Johan throws, on track for Opening Day start

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In an effort to simulate game conditions as accurately as possible, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen waited until Johan Santana had finished his warmups before launching into his finest public-address voice.

"Batting first, the center fielder, Andres Torres," Warthen boomed as Santana squatted nearby. "Batting second, the second baseman, Daniel Murphy. ..."

Warthen rolled through the next four batters before catching Santana's ear.

"Batting seventh, the pitcher..." Warthen began as Santana leaped out of his crouch, cackling at the presumption.

Santana's bat, the Mets know, is not quite so valuable as his surgically-repaired left shoulder. His bat is not what caused another large crowd to gather for his fourth spring bullpen session, prompting manager Terry Collins to remark that "something exciting must be going on over here."

The excitement involved 31 pitches over two simulated innings, with a roughly five-minute break between them. Including warmups, Santana made a total of 72 throws before leaving the mound to begin his running program

"I want to see how my arm recovers from everything," Santana said. "That's what I'm most looking forward to."

Santana plans to throw a long-toss session on Wednesday and a live bullpen session against hitters on Friday, before making his Grapefruit League debut against the Cardinals on March 6. The goal is still an Opening Day assignment for Santana, who remains on track to meet it.

"As long as he continues to grow," Collins said, "as long as his health continues to be maintained, it was a good day."