Santana to start Opening Day

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets ace Johan Santana will oppose Florida right-hander Josh Johnson on Opening Day, but manager Jerry Manuel has tweaked the rest of his rotation after a string of underperformances.

Right-hander John Maine and rookie left-hander Jon Niese now will face the Marlins in the other two games of the season-opening series, April 7-8, at Citi Field.

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey and left-hander Oliver Perez, originally penciled in to start Games 2 and 3, will face the Nationals in the season's second series instead before the Mets return to Santana on April 11 for the series finale against the Nationals.

Pelfrey is 0-3 with a 7.97 ERA in five spring starts. He has allowed eight home runs in 20 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.

Perez is 0-1 with an 8.66 ERA in 17 2/3 innings spanning five starts. His velocity registered only 86 mph to 88 mph Tuesday against the Cardinals.

"You can be optimistic in spring training," Manuel said while struggling to paint the pitchers' spring training performances in a favorable light. "Now, once the season sets in and these things continue to happen, we have to react accordingly. But this is a time that you can remain somewhat optimistic."

Santana will start Opening Day -- on Monday -- for the third straight season since joining the Mets, but the first two openers came on the road.

"It's going to be very special," Santana said Wednesday. "It's the first Opening Day for me in New York."

Adam Rubin is ESPNNewYork.com's Mets reporter. He has covered the Mets since 2003.