Johan Santana reported to camp right on schedule, then he fell behind schedule, and then he advanced ahead of schedule.
Confused? The Mets don't care what Santana's spring schedule looks like as long as he is ready for Opening Day.
They believe he is still on track for that assignment after throwing a surprise bullpen session Sunday morning at their spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. A day earlier, general manager Sandy Alderson said that Santana was "less and less likely" for Opening Day, and that he wished he had reported to camp in better shape, considering the shoulder weakness that the two-time Cy Young Award-winner demonstrated in one of his early throwing sessions.
Then Santana took the mound Sunday in what manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen both described as a direct response to Alderson's criticism.
"In retrospect, he knows he should have handled it a little bit differently," Collins said. "But he was fine, and he wanted to show everybody he was fine. I just said, 'Look, we're going to do this the right way. We're not going to hurt you. We're not going to get you injured. I don't care how upset you are about things, we're going to do this the proper way. April 1 is only a date on the calendar. It doesn't mean anything if you're not ready.'"
If Santana cannot pitch on Opening Day, the Mets have already indicated that Jon Niese would step into his shoes at Citi Field, while Jeremy Hefner would most likely take Santana's spot in the rotation.
But the Mets have stressed that even if Santana cannot pitch on April 1, that does not mean he must miss significant time. Disabled list backdating rules stipulate that if Santana were to begin the year on the DL, he could return in time for the sixth game of the season.
Answers will come as the Mets delve deeper into camp. The team is still aiming for Santana to appear in his first Grapefruit League game on or around March 10, which would allow him to make three or four spring starts before Opening Day.