Mets LHP Santana faces hitters for first time


PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -- New York Mets ace Johan Santana was taking a quick rest in the dugout when he heard a female fan say, "It's good to have you back."

"It's good to be back," the two-time Cy Young Award winner replied.

It certainly appears Santana is close to full strength again.

The left-hander, who missed all of last season while recovering from shoulder surgery, faced hitters Thursday for the first time since tossing four innings in an Instructional League game Sept. 30.

Everything went well, and the next step for Santana will be his first Grapefruit League outing. He is scheduled to start a split-squad game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday. He will throw two innings or 40 pitches, whichever comes first.