Collins tells Johan to play it safe

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In Terry Collins’ latest conversation with Johan Santana, the manager told the southpaw not to do anything crazy in order to prove to people he is healthy.

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

#57 SP
New York Mets

2012 STATS

  • GM21
  • W6

  • L9

  • BB39

  • K111

  • ERA4.85

Santana unexpectedly had hopped on a mound Sunday for the first time since Feb. 19, which pitching coach Dan Warthen subsequently suggested may have been motivated by public criticism of Santana’s pitching shape.

Said Collins: “I asked, ‘What did you get on the mound for?’ And he said, ‘Because I felt good.’ And I said, ‘It was unnecessary.’”

Collins nonetheless said Santana appeared to get through the activity fine.

While the Mets will not rule out Opening Day, Santana may end up opening the season later in the rotation or on the DL. Santana would need to ramp up quickly -- getting only three starts -- in order to be ready for April 1.

Said Collins: “I said, ‘The last thing I need is to have you wake up tomorrow stiff and then we take a huge step backward because you wanted to show everybody you’re OK. I understand what you’re doing, but once in a while you’ve just got to let stuff slide away. You’ve just got to let it roll off your back and move on and get yourself ready.’

“And he knew that. He’s a pro. But you guys have told me more than I’ve told you about what a competitor he is. And that’s the perfect example of it. … In retrospect, he knows he would have handled it a little bit differently. But he’s fine, and he wanted to show everybody he was fine.

“I just said, ‘Look, we’re going to do this the right way. We’re not going to hurt you. We’re not going to get you injured. I don’t care how upset you are about things, we’re going to do this the proper way. And April 1 is only a date on the calendar. It doesn’t mean anything if you’re not ready.’”

WHEEL DEAL: Zack Wheeler (oblique) should return to mound Thursday for his first bullpen session since being scratched last Wednesday with an oblique strain suffered swinging a bat in a cage.

“He’s not going to make the club anyway, so we’re going to err on the side of caution,” Collins said.

KIRK NIEUWS: Collins described the bone bruise in Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ left knee as “really sore.”

“It’s going to probably be three to five days before he’s back on the field,” the manager added.