If Johan Santana pitches every fifth day the rest of spring training, he'll get five starts and then go in the Mets' April 6 season opener.
That should be about enough to get him ready.
Santana's belated spring debut came Thursday night against the Florida Marlins, and he showed a good changeup but inconsistent command of his fastball. All in all, about usual for a first spring outing.
In 2 1/3 innings, Santana allowed three runs on four hits. He struck out two -- both on diving, 78 mph changeups -- walked none and hit a batter. He threw 47 pitches, 33 for strikes.
Santana was supposed to pitch Feb. 27, but he came up with a sore elbow that caused all of Queens to shudder at once. But the crisis blew over -- an MRI was scheduled, then cancelled -- and Santana (who turns 30 on Friday) reported no more problems leading up to Thursday's start.
The pitch count is a good sign. He can increase it 15 or so per outing, getting it up to 100, and then back off just before the season begins.
The other positive was Santana's changeup. He struck out Cameron Maybin and Robert Andino with the pitch and got three other outs with it.
But Santana's fastball is a work in progress. He hit 92 mph (according to the radar gun on the SNY broadcast) a couple of times but was mostly 88-90. That's about where he sits normally, but he missed his spot a number of times.
The first pitch of the second inning was a high, 89 mph fastball, and Dan Uggla creamed it out to left. Six pitches later, Jay Gibbons lined out hard to center. Another fastball brushed prospect Logan Morrison's jersey, and pitcher Ricky Nolasco even hit one for a single.
But that problem will be corrected. If Santana comes out of this outing healthy, the Mets can be happy with where he's at.