PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Each day is a new step for Johan Santana, who faced live batters on Thursday for the first time since October. Throwing 40 pitches over two simulated innings to a group of hitters including David Wright, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy, Santana came away as encouraged as ever.
"I was told I was going to be challenged by those guys and I had to step up," Santana said, smiling. "Overall, it was good."
The audience will swell for Santana's next outing, a Grapefruit League start against the Cardinals on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. ET, in a game that will be broadcast on MLB.TV. Santana expects to throw two innings and around 35 pitches in the game, keeping him on track to start Opening Day against the Braves on April 5.
"I'm sure he knows that he's on the team," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He doesn't have to show us in BP. So he can just go about it and get his work done, and he did that."
Though Santana's velocity is not what it was before shoulder surgery in September 2010, the left-hander is focusing more on fine-tuning the command of his fastball and changeup. Adequate velocity should come in time, even if Santana never throws in the mid- or even low-90s again.
"You can tell everything you need to know about Johan just by the way he's acting, what he's saying, his body language," Wright said. "Obviously, you could see today that he was having fun, he was joking around, and that's a pretty good indication of how he was feeling."