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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mets News and Notes: Santana, Francisco, Duda, Tejada. Cowgill

Mets News and Notes:

Terry Collins said Johan Santana, who has been backed off mound work for the time being, looks stronger throwing on flat ground.

"I told him already today: He looked better today than he did five days ago," Collins said. "I think the long-toss program is making strides."

The Mets need to get Santana in a Grapefruit League game by March 10 or 11 in order to get him four spring-training starts and ready for Opening Day.

If Santana were to open the season on the disabled list, Jeremy Hefner and Collin McHugh would be the most serious considerations, with Zack Wheeler technically in the consideration set. Collins said he also likes Rafael Montero, but it's not practical because of a 40-man roster crunch (along with the fact Montero has not pitched above Class A). Montero is not on the 40-man roster.

Terry Collins said the Mets "right now" still have a script in place to get Frank Francisco ready for Opening Day.

Frank Francisco made 25 tosses, playing catch with Collins, at 60 feet on flat ground Monday. It marked Francisco's first time throwing since being shut down at the start of camp with elbow inflammation.

Collins said Francisco likely would advance to 70 feet on Wednesday.

"It's a step forward, for sure," Collins said. "The swelling has subsided. The discomfort has subsided. And so now we've got to take these gradual baby steps as we get closer to getting him back to where he needs to be. ... We have a thing in the organization where basically, before he can get on the mound, we'd like him to get to 150 feet. When he gets there, then we'll get him on the mound."

Francisco underwent surgery in December to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.

"We've got five weeks," Collins said. "We've still got a lot of time."

Lucas Duda will be held out of Grapefruit League games for at least the next two days, Terry Collins said.

Collins and Duda said the left fielder's wrist, which was surgically repaired during the offseason, is fine.

The manager instead suggested that being cautious in limiting Duda's swings early in camp has resulted in Duda not getting enough repetitions yet in a cage to be ready for spring-training action.

Duda said he started swinging during the offseason on Jan. 23, whereas he normally would start in early December.

Duda has opened Grapefruit League play 0-for-7 with six strikeouts.

"It's two games," Duda said. "We're not going to hit the panic button just yet."

Said Collins: "He and I had a long talk today, and he's just not ready to play due to the wrist injury. He had just not been able to get the reps in the cage that he normally does to feel comfortable. And, as you guys know, I'm not here to embarrass anybody. So when he's ready to play, we're going to get him back in there. I'm hoping by Wednesday or Thursday he's back in the lineup. Today he just took a tremendous load on the back field -- somewhat game situations with a guy throwing pretty hard to him, so he gets some better timing. We're going to do it again tomorrow and we'll see how he is on Wednesday.

"His wrist doesn't hurt. He said, 'You know, I'm so used to taking a lot of swings to get ready for games.' He said due to the wrist, his workload has been cut back so much, he's just not ready to hit."

Ruben Tejada was scratched from Monday night's Grapefruit League game against the Washington Nationals with a right quadriceps injury. Terry Collins labeled the issue a "little strain," although a Mets spokesman later described it as a cramp.

Tejada said he felt the issue running during afternoon conditioning drills. He minimized the issue and predicted he would miss "only today." Brandon Hicks instead started at shortstop.

"It's nothing," Tejada insisted. "I feel it, but I don't push too much. It's prevention to stay healthy. This is spring. I felt it today and I stopped."

Asked how long Tejada might miss, Collins said: "I don't know yet. He said he could play tonight, but he was still warm. We'll wait until he has a night off and see how he comes in tomorrow, how he feels, before we make a decision. He won't play tomorrow, for sure."

If lefty-hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis and righty-hitting Collin Cowgill will be platooning in center field, Terry Collins figures it would be logical to consider them as a platoon for the leadoff spot, too. Cowgill was leading off on Monday night against Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez. He went 0 for 2

Cowgill, acquired from the Oakland Athletics on Dec. 18 for Jefry Marte, is making a favorable early impression with his hustle. He scored from second on a groundball to first base in Saturday's Grapefruit League opener.

Cowgill started three games in the leadoff spot last season with the A's. He also appeared in 19 games in the leadoff spot with Triple-A Sacramento in 2012.

"I hadn't seen enough of him to make a legitimate call on what kind of leadoff hitter he's going to be," Collins said. "He's a real aggressive swinger. I think he's got some power in that leadoff spot. But he's an aggressive guy on the bases, which is a key thing when the guy gets on. Not that he's going to be a huge base stealer, but he is the guy that we know can go first to third and create some action."

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