For Johan Santana, the first real test came Thursday night when he made it into a minor league game, his first game action of any sort since undergoing shoulder surgery last September. But the lesson might have come if he turned the television on Friday night and watched Chien-Ming Wang pitch against the Mets.
Wang had the same surgery, a repair of a torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder, and it took him two years to the day from his surgery to get back into a major league game.
The results weren't impressive -- the Mets' first five hitters reached base, and they pounded out eight hits and six runs in four innings against Wang. Still, if it was chilling to see how long it took Wang to get back, at least he broke the barrier. Someone has now made it back.
The Mets have tried to temper the enthusiasm about Santana's return, noting that anything that they receive from him this year is a bonus -- mostly done to help ease the path to 2012. Santana echoed those sentiments, even after his successful debut Thursday.
"I would love to pitch (for the Mets this year)," Santana said Thursday night. "No question about it. If that's going to be the case I don't really know. I really want to come back and pitch, but again, we're going to do whatever is best for me, for the whole team."
Mets manager Terry Collins didn't get to see Santana on Thursday but was happy with the reports he received from rehabilitation coordinator Randy Niemann.
"Great reports," Collins said. "He felt great. Velocity was very good. The command of his fastball -- (he threw) 33 pitches, 26 strikes. It was real positive stuff."
But Collins added, "He's got a long way to go," Collins said. "It's the first outing. Certainly he's got a long road ahead. When he starts to get six, seven innings, 85-90 pitches, then I'll get excited."
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