ATLANTA -- Now that Johan Santana has stretched out his arm over two regular-season starts, the Mets are no longer overly concerned with the left-hander's pitch count. Santana could throw as many as 115 pitches against the Braves on Tuesday, depending on how the game unfolds.
"We're more concerned tomorrow with weather than we are with anything else," manager Terry Collins said.
And that is a legitimate worry. Thunderstorms are forecast for downtown Atlanta throughout the early portion of this week, reaching their highest probability during Tuesday's late afternoon hours. That could create a messy situation for Santana, who may have to take the mound for an inning or two, then stop.
But no matter what the forecast, Collins said, he will not scratch Santana from his start.
"What I want to do is hopefully get some innings out of him," the manager said.
Though Collins allows most of his pitchers to come back from rain delays as long as they are less than 60 minutes, he would be wary in extending Santana's rope longer than a half hour. Anything beyond that could present an unnecessary risk for Santana, who is 19 months removed from left-shoulder surgery.
"Some guys, if it's the second or third inning, a lot of those guys will say, 'I'm fine. I'll come back,'" Collins said. "And he will say that, too. No doubt in my mind. I just probably won't bring him back."
It is one of the few restrictions still in place for Santana, whose maximum pitch count will rise from around 105 in his second start to 115 in Tuesday's game. Even before tearing his left anterior shoulder capsule in Sept. 2010, Santana almost never lasted longer than that in games, throwing more than 115 pitches once each year in 2009 and 2010.
"A lot of it depends upon how he's done," Collins said of Santana's pitch count. "Has he had to pitch out of jams? Has there been a big inning he's had to get through?"
Santana threw 84 and 99 pitches in his first two starts, respectively. His highest total during Spring Training was 88.