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Mets aim for Johan Santana to make Grapefruit League debut next week

Mar 6, 2013, 7:14 PM EST

Johan Santana AP AP

Johan Santana‘s availability for the start of the season is in doubt, but he’s getting closer to making his spring debut.

ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reports that the Mets are aiming for Santana to make his first start in a week, likely next Thursday against the Tigers. This means he would only get three starts to prepare himself for the start of the regular season, but Mets manager Terry Collins is more focused on the long-term than having him ready for Opening Day against the Padres.

“We’re not worried about April 1,” Collins said. “We’re worried about 30 starts.”

Santana has been trying to build arm strength over the past few weeks after taking it easy during the offseason. The veteran left-hander has thrown two light bullpens in recent days and will need to throw another before progressing to live batting practice. Assuming all goes well, he’ll then test himself in game action.

Rubin speculates that Santana may make his final two starts of the spring in minor league games so that the Mets could backdate him if he needs to begin the season on the disabled list. Jeremy Hefner would likely serve as a placeholder in the rotation in that case.

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