Santana throws bullpen, slated to pitch Thursday

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP)—Johan Santana tested his left elbow in another bullpen session Monday and the New York Mets ace is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Thursday night against Florida at Tradition Field.

The Mets got a pinch-hit grand slam from Nick Evans in the eighth inning and a game-winning solo shot by Rene Rivera in the ninth to beat the Orioles 9-8. But on a day when Miami Dolphins executive Bill Parcells and coach Tony Sparano visited camp, it was Santana who took center stage.

“This is a great time for him to start getting ready,” New York manager Jerry Manuel said. “He could go three innings, he could go 45 (pitches). Sometimes you can get those in, but it depends, it really depends.”

Santana, who has been slowed by tightness in his pitching elbow, looked sharp Monday, throwing all his pitches, including his slider.

Now, the Mets appear ready to turn the two-time Cy Young Award winner loose on a course that should lead to him starting on opening day in Cincinnati.

“I think at the beginning we have to be a little cautious with pitch counts, innings, those types of things,” Manuel said. “I don’t expect him to be cautious, I expect him to compete and that’s what he does best. You can never take an athlete who has that and ask him to tone that down. You won’t get the same guy.”

In other news, reserve outfielder Angel Pagan had an MRI exam in New York that showed a bone spur in the back of his right elbow. The injury could require surgery.

Pagan will confer with Mets doctors and trainers during the next day or two to determine a course of treatment, club spokesman Jay Horwitz said.

Brian Stokes tossed a perfect inning to earn the win against Baltimore, lowering his spring ERA to 1.80.

Duaner Sanchez gave up three hits and two runs—one earned—in one inning. He struck out two. Sanchez is scheduled to throw again Tuesday in Viera against the Nationals, marking the first time this spring he will pitch on consecutive days.

“I thought Duaner had good arm speed today,” Manuel said. “His changeup was good, had some good movement. I think he’s coming. You know, Duaner is a guy that has performed in New York.”

Manuel also made a case for both Stokes and Bobby Parnell in the Mets’ bullpen, which figures to include Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano, Sean Green, J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez.

“The way it sounds I’m going to be keeping about 15 pitchers,” Manuel joked.

The possibility also exists that Tim Redding or Livan Hernandez could go to the bullpen if the other were to claim the fifth spot in the rotation.

Manuel said he is still considering how many pitchers and position players he will take north when the season starts.

As for throwing Pedro Martinez into the mix for the fifth starter’s job, Manuel stayed with the Mets’ company line despite the success and increased velocity Martinez has shown while pitching for the Dominican Republic at the World Baseball Classic.

“Pedro is a Hall of Fame pitcher, one of the greatest pitchers of our time,” Manuel said. “I feel very confident in the people we have in camp that can get the job done. Like Pedro? Of course, you love Pedro. But you have to be fair to the people we have here.”

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