Collins expects Johan to take ball on Opening Day

VIERA, Fla. -- Mets left-hander Johan Santana remains on target to make his Grapefruit League debut around March 10, according to manager Terry Collins, keeping him on track to pitch Opening Day at Citi Field.

Santana plans to continue throwing at the Mets' Spring Training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with the goal of playing catch at 120 feet. Once he achieves that, he should throw from a mound for the first time since the Mets backed off his throwing program in the early days of spring.

The Mets named Santana their Opening Day starter on the first official day of camp, before his latest issues arose. He officially finished last season on the disabled list with lower back inflammation, but he was also battling an ankle injury and left arm fatigue.

If Santana is not ready to pitch on Opening Day, Collins said there are multiple options -- and multiple opinions within the organization -- on who should assume the vacant spot in the rotation. Jeremy Hefner and Collin McHugh appear to be the leading candidates, with Jon Niese the obvious choice to start in Santana's place on April 1.