Santana tests surgically repaired knee

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana tested his surgically repaired left knee Tuesday, throwing off a mound for the first time since last season.

The New York Mets ace said he might meet with general manager Omar Minaya as soon as this weekend to make a decision about pitching in the World Baseball Classic for Venezuela next month.

"I would love to play but I'm not going to go against any decisions [the Mets] make," Santana said. "I'm an employee here and I have to listen to what they have to say. It's a very important season for us and I'm a very important part of this team. I'm not going to do anything crazy."

Santana threw 18 pitches to a catcher set up in front of home plate. He also participated in conditioning drills without reporting any discomfort.

"I feel fine," Santana said. "I was excited to get on the mound. It's time to play baseball. It's what I've been waiting for. Today was my first day on the mound, so I was just trying to get a feel for it."

Santana went 16-7 last year with a major league-best 2.53 ERA in his first season with the Mets. He had arthroscopic surgery Oct. 1 on torn cartilage in his left knee.

The Mets might not clear Santana to pitch in the WBC. They have said the decision will depend on his physical condition coming off the surgery.
Multilple media outlets in New York reported on Tuesday that the decision has already been made and that Santana will not participate in the WBC.

Venezuela's first game is March 7 against Italy in Toronto.

Santana, meanwhile, said he's close to being on his regular spring schedule.

"If I stay on schedule I should be fine," he added. "Today I was able to do the conditioning with no problem. It's pretty normal for this time of year."

The left-hander, who led the NL with 234 1/3 innings, pitched in September with pain and swelling in his knee.

"With the pennant race and trying to make the playoffs, you don't think about it," Santana said. "The days I pitched I didn't feel anything. You have everything going, your adrenaline going and you don't feel anything, so I was able to battle through it."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he hopes to take advantage of the extra time before Opening Day this year due to the WBC.

"We're shooting to be on a regular schedule," he said. "Of course, we have to be very careful and try not to rush. I'm about going with the program. We'll see what the next step is."


Veteran infielder Jose Valentin agreed to a minor league contract with the Mets. If added to the 40-man roster, he would get $800,000 in the majors and $72,000 in the minors. Valentin, 39, had a productive season as New York's regular second baseman in 2006, batting .271 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs. But he's been slowed by injuries since and didn't play in the big leagues last year. ... Mets starters Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine joined Santana in throwing bullpen sessions. Maine, who had surgery Sept. 30 to remove a lesion from the back of his right shoulder socket, reported no discomfort and said he's on schedule for spring training. The first official workout for Mets pitchers and catchers is scheduled for Sunday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.