PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — New York Mets ace Johan Santana is set to throw off a mound, hoping his left elbow has recovered from surgery late last season.
Santana is scheduled to pitch Tuesday during the Mets' three-day minicamp at their spring training complex. He expects to ready for opening day after having bone chips removed Sept. 1.
"I'm feeling good. Time will tell, but I am feeling good," the two-time Cy Young winner said Monday. "We did a pretty good job with the offseason, working out and doing all the rehab, and I'm feeling good. Everything is on schedule."
Santana went 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts. He struggled after June, going 6-7 with a 4.02 ERA before the Mets shut him down in late August.
Pitcher Oliver Perez, who had scar tissue removed from his right knee last season, also was optimistic.
"Right now I don't feel anything," Perez said of his knee. "I think that's why I'm really happy."
Mets general manager Omar Minaya said the team's health was the key to this season. Depleted by injuries, the Mets went 70-92 last year.
"Two weeks ago we were confident in Carlos Beltran being in the lineup, and now he's not going to be for the start, so that's why we went out and got Gary Matthews," he said. "I think a healthy Mets team will contend for a playoff spot. I think the Phillies have really improved themselves, so we have a lot of work to do."
"I don't think we are a joke but I do believe when you lose and you have a situation where — let's be honest — we didn't have a good year. In New York, for people to pay more attention, you have to win," he said.
The Mets quickly fell out of contention last year. In the two previous seasons, they doomed themselves with late collapses.
"It wasn't like last year was something that happened three or four years," Minaya said. "We all feel disappointed by how the year turned out last year, but the good thing about it is it's a new year."
Minaya said the Mets were still exploring their choices at catcher. They lost out on free-agent Bengie Molina, who re-signed with San Francisco, and currently have four options: Henry Blanco, Omir Santos, Chris Coste and young Josh Thole.
"If we need to go with the guys we have we will. But we are still talking to some other teams and looking at some free agents," Minaya said.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel ranked Santos as the early favorite to play a lot.
"Omir did a good job for us last year, he got off to a good start. The start is going to be very critical for us. We need to get off to a good start but understand that there are 162 games," he said. "He has some familiarity with the pitching staff, so he will probably be the guy, if you had to rank them."