Johan Santana throws off mound

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A Goodyear blimp coincidentally flew over the New York Mets' spring-training complex as Johan Santana prepared to step onto a mound Friday for the first time since late September. It perhaps was an appropriate sight, since manager Terry Collins labeled Santana's ensuing 25-pitch session to catcher Josh Thole a "huge first step for us" in spring training.

Santana did not appear in the majors last season after undergoing surgery Sept. 14, 2010 to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. He did work in four minor league or similarly structured games last year before taking the winter off to allow his body to recuperate from a season of rehab.

"I finally had a chance to get on the mound and throw to a catcher, to Thole, and I felt really good," Santana said Friday afternoon. "The approach that we had from the beginning was to do everything like I always do to get ready for the season. For me, it's about time to get on the mound and start throwing. And I was able to throw all of my pitches and it felt good after that."

Collins said he was so impressed with Santana hitting Thole's glove wherever the catcher placed it that the manager lightheartedly told the southpaw, "Don't s--- me, you've been throwing."

Santana is scheduled to return to the mound Tuesday for another session.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen wants Santana to work on a normal schedule, pitching every five days once Grapefruit League games begin. There is an extra off-day built into Santana's first three starts of the regular season, Warthen said, but only because team off-days allow it without need to juggle the rotation.

Collins expects Santana to participate in drills with other pitchers normally during spring training as well, although the manager allowed for the possibility of the ace skipping a day here and there if he prefers.

"Obviously we have to make an adjustment on a daily basis, as we did last year with Carlos," Collins said, referring to former Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran's return from knee woes that led to an unpredictable spring-training routine. "But you saw the smile on [Santana's] face. You don't think he's happy with what's going on? It's a huge step for us. It's a big day for him. Now it's just gradually moving forward and building him up."

Said Santana: "I'm not afraid of anything. I'm actually excited about being out on the mound and being able to start competing."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.