For the first time in his major league career, Johan Santana will stay behind when his team breaks camp following spring training.
The plan outlined by New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson at the start of camp called for Santana to be on a mound about May 1, with an eye toward returning to the majors in late June or early July. Santana is currently throwing on flat ground from 75 feet four times a week as he recovers from Sept. 14 shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule.
Asked if being on a mound in about a month is realistic, Santana said: "I have no clue. What I know as of right now is they want me to go all the way to 180 feet and then get on the mound. But getting on the mound doesn't mean that you're going to be throwing all of your stuff or facing hitters or anything. It's just to get the feeling for it. And then you go back and long-toss. And then later you get into that, I would say, spring-training mode where you are building everything up and you start pitching."
During his sessions on flat ground, Santana is tossing with a fair amount of zip.
"I'm looking for how I feel after I throw more than if I'm throwing hard or not," Santana said. "I'm very pleased with how I feel. It feels like everything is getting looser, looser and looser as I throw -- and better. I get the ball there with no problem. I think that's a good sign. Again, I'm not trying to put a lot into it because I can't. I have to wait until you rebuild everything and until you get into those bullpen sessions and see how it feels. So far it's been good. I've been able to play catch with no problem."
Santana will be based in Port St. Lucie "for weeks to come" during his rehab, working with Randy Niemann on the minor league side of the complex. He plans to arrive about noon each day. He plans to be home in Fort Myers this weekend, and will not head down to Miami for Opening Day.
The ace said it's "too far away" to start envisioning himself back in a major league game.
"I go one day at a time," he said. "I've just got to make sure every time that I go through my routine it's steady, it's solid. You cannot think ahead."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.