Johan Santana's debut delayed

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets left-hander Johan Santana's first Grapefruit League appearance has been pushed back by as much as two weeks, although general manager Sandy Alderson said the southpaw is not injured.

Santana, 33, originally had been scheduled to make his first spring training appearance March 2, but Alderson said the club is now targeting the March 10-15 range.

"There's no structural issue," Alderson said. "It's just a matter of building up strength. So he'll be long-tossing before he gets back on the mound. We expect that his schedule will have been delayed somewhat."

Santana underwent shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule at the end of the 2010 season and missed the following year. He finished last season on the disabled list with lower-back inflammation and limited his throwing before arriving in camp.

"I haven't gotten on the mound for a while, so it takes time to get everything adjusted again and to get in that pitching mode again," Santana said. "It takes time. That's what we're doing. It's not a setback at all."

Santana was examined Thursday by team doctor David Altchek. Alderson said there was "mutual recognition that maybe things needed to be backed off a little bit."

"Again, there's no structural issue. It's a matter of just getting into a development progression," Alderson said. "It's not a soreness thing. I wouldn't even call it a weakness. It's just where he is in his program is somewhat behind based on his winter and the injury from last year and his loss of the second half of the season. So he's just a little behind schedule."

Manager Terry Collins has named Santana his Opening Day starter if healthy. Santana isn't concerned about not being ready.

"No, we still have a long way to go," Santana said. "That's the focus that we have right now -- April. It's not tomorrow or the next couple of days. That's why we've got to make sure whatever we do is to build up all the way to April."

Collins said Friday his staff has outlined a plan to get Santana four spring training starts, all on an extra day of rest, to line the left-hander up for Opening Day. The manager said Santana ideally would have outings of 45 pitches, 60, 75 and 90-95 pitches leading into the regular season.

Collins said he sensed Santana was not ready for early Grapefruit League action after watching the southpaw's first two times on a mound. Santana faulted an inability to get loose in his first session on unseasonably cold weather in Port St. Lucie. But on a warmer day when Santana returned to the mound, Collins said, Santana had a noticeable lack of arm strength and no feel for his changeup.

"He didn't have the arm speed," Collins said. "You could just tell."

Collins said he is not alarmed that Santana's shoulder is weaker than at this point last spring training. His reasoning was consistent with other Mets officials Friday -- that Santana had been given a good deal of time off during the winter from throwing when contrasted with a year ago.

Alderson suggested Santana remains on track to break camp with the team, but the GM could not rule out Santana opening the season on the disabled list.

"Right now, we don't think so, but it's obviously a possibility," Alderson said. "Right now we're still shooting for the Opening Day."

Right-handers Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler and Jeremy Hefner would appear to be the primary options to plug the rotation spot if Santana were unavailable to open the season.

Santana is in the final guaranteed season of a six-year deal. He is due to make $25.5 million, plus another $5.5 million buyout of a 2014 vesting option.

Alderson announced that left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano and outfielder Jamie Hoffmann were sent to New York for non-orthopedic follow-ups to their initial team physical examinations. Both are due back in camp in the next couple of days, Alderson added.

The GM said he was unable to elaborate on their medical issues for privacy reasons. He could not say if their early Grapefruit League play would be restricted as a result.

"We won't know until they have the follow-up in New York," Alderson said. "But it's in New York because the doctors that did the original examination came down from New York and did it. We want to follow up with the same doctors."

Also on the medical front, Alderson said Frank Francisco will be permitted to begin tossing a baseball Monday or Tuesday after suffering elbow inflammation upon arriving at camp. Collins has told Bobby Parnell to prepare to be the closer since Francisco may open the season on the DL.

Francisco underwent surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.

"Frankie is making progress," Alderson said.