PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana spent a portion of his Wednesday morning throwing off a mound at Tradition Field -- though hardly in the way he envisioned when he first reported to camp.
Three weeks ago, Santana was still talking about pitching in the World Baseball Classic for Team Venezuela, which beat the Mets, 14-10, in an exhibition at Port St. Lucie on Wednesday. Instead, Santana threw a few pitches off a back mound at the complex, following a light long-toss session with pitching coach Dan Warthen.
Mets manager Terry Collins revealed afterward that Santana hopes to make his Grapefruit League debut in approximately one week. The logical date for that would be March 14, since the Mets are off on March 12 and have long road trips on the 13th and 15th.
Still, Santana is hardly a sure thing for Opening Day, which is why an international tournament in early March never quite made sense.
"Knowing him, he's dying to be in," said countryman and former teammate Francisco Rodriguez. "But at the same time, he does understand that he has a big responsibility this year with the Mets, so it's hard to be in his shoes and be able to make a type of commitment. I know he's itching to be here right now."
Santana declined interview requests following his throwing session, leaving Collins to speak for him. Like most people around Mets camp, the manager is not ready to make predictions on Santana's readiness just yet.
"I'm not getting caught up in Opening Day right now," Collins said. "A lot of it will be determined in the next few days: how he comes out of his start, where he's at when he comes out of it. As I've continued to say, we're not worried about April 1. We're worried about him making 30 starts."
Still, if Santana indeed appears in a game next week, his chances of toeing the rubber on Opening Day, April 1, would significantly increase. That goal is a large part of the reason why the Mets did not allow Santana to pitch for Venezuela in the Classic, which in turn is why he was wearing blue and orange on Wednesday -- not the red and gold of Team Venezuela.
"I know how he feels, very emotional right now," Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said. "We've got to move on."