Johan Santana can start throwing

NEW YORK -- Johan Santana has been given the green light to begin a throwing program as he continues rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.

The team has not set a timetable for his return, but manager Terry Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson have suggested he won't be back until June or July. Spring training is in a month.

In September, Santana underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.

Since, the Mets know that they can't count on Santana to be ready in the beginning of the season, they are hoping to hear shortly from free-agent right-hander Chris Young. Young is coming off his own shoulder problems that have limited him the last two seasons.

Young and the Mets have been in continued talks.

"It could be a nice fit," Mets assistant general manager J.P. Ricciardi said.

The Mets know that their biggest question mark is their rotation without Santana. They hope Mike Pelfrey can turn into a No. 1, while R.A. Dickey repeats his stellar 2010.

Jon Niese could be the team's third starter with Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee the favorites right now to round out the rotation. If signed, Young would take a spot in the rotation.

Top minor league prospect Jenrry Mejia is expected to start at Triple-A.

The Mets feel as if they have a strong lineup, which could make some noise with solid pitching. They're hoping to hang in the race until Santana can come back.

Last year, Santana was 11-9 with a 2.98 ERA in 29 starts before being shut down in September.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com.