Santana says he's strong after elbow surgery

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Asked to pick the best pitcher in the NL East, New York Mets ace Johan Santana had a quick answer.

"Santana," he said Thursday.

Santana reported to spring training expressing confidence in both his team and his surgically repaired left elbow.

"We are confident about the things we can do," Santana said. "We are healthy and we are definitely happy to be back on the field and do the things we know. It's going to be a good atmosphere around here, and everyone wants to move on and get everything going."

Santana began throwing off a mound last month for the first time since August when he was shut down to have surgery to remove bone chips. He spent much of the offseason working out at Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers and said he has made progress since first stepping back on a mound in Port St. Lucie during the Mets' three-day minicamp at the end of January.

"I'm able to let it go," Santana said. "I am able to throw my fastball with no problems and throw my breaking balls and my changeup without feeling that sharp pain in the back of my elbow now. I am able to throw all my pitches pain free, so that's a big plus for me."

Santana was reminded during a news conference that the last time he underwent elbow surgery, he went on to win a Cy Young Award the next season, his first of two with the Minnesota Twins.

Despite his elbow problems, he went 13-9 with a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts last year.

"My plan is definitely to win the World Series," Santana said. "That's what we want to do. If I win the Cy Young, great. I feel good. I am going to compete, and I am going to try to do my best every time I am out there. If I stay healthy, I think I'm going to have a chance."

Santana doesn't mind the naysayers doubting the Mets this season. Even after an injury-plagued season resulted in a 70-92 year, he believes his team has the talent to succeed. He also said he hasn't changed his mind about wanting to be in New York.