Johan-Halladay may be a near-miss

Johan Santana confidently suggested during spring training that Roy Halladay’s arrival in Philadelphia didn’t unseat the left-hander as the top ace in the National League East. It looks like Santana narrowly will miss a chance to demonstrate it in a head-to-head matchup.

Halladay appears likely to face the Mets on Saturday opposite Mike Pelfrey, while Santana is lining up for Sunday’s ESPN-televised game in Philadelphia.

Even before Monday’s rainout against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field, the Mets had resolved to have Santana stay on standard rest and leapfrog Oliver Perez, so that Santana would face the Phillies on Sunday night and Perez would pitch in the next series at Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia has an off-day Thursday, allowing them to bypass ex-Met Nelson Figueroa in the rotation and use Halladay on standard rest Saturday. Halladay is scheduled to face the San Francisco Giants on Monday night. Phillies spokesman Greg Casterioto indicated “nothing has been determined yet” regarding the weekend rotation.

Santana is first scheduled to pitch Game 1 of Tuesday’s straight doubleheader against the Dodgers at 4:10 p.m. Perez, who originally had Monday’s assignment, will pitch the nightcap.

When Santana arrived at spring training and was playfully asked who had the claim as the top ace in the division, the left-hander innocently named himself. No tit-for-tat with Halladay ensued during camp, as had been the case between Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran over the division’s “team to beat” in recent years.

Santana never retracted the remark, but he thought it had been sensationalized in the media. He explained to ESPNNewYork.com during the final week of spring training: “I’m not going to go against myself, you know? I’ve been there before. I’ve done this for many years now. I know what it takes for me to compete and to do my job and go out there and perform. I think the media took it to a different level, which I don’t really care, because I know exactly what I’m capable of doing. And I know what those guys can do. It’s just a competition that’s going to be around here. And I think it’s going to be a healthy one and it’s good for baseball. Fans are going to enjoy it. We’ll be ready for it.”

Halladay and Santana have squared off one previous time, and it wasn’t pretty for Santana. On Opening Day in 2006 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Santana allowed four runs on 10 hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings. Halladay, meanwhile, limited Santana’s Minnesota Twins to three runs (two earned), albeit with two homers, in 7 2/3 innings to earn the win in the Blue Jays’ 6-3 victory.

BANNED: Minor leaguer left-hander Angel Calero was suspended 50 games after testing positive for metabolites of Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing drug. Calero, 23, was 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA in four relief appearances for Class A St. Lucie.