By Ed Coleman
» More Columns

It was another uplifting day for Johan Santana and the Mets. Santana delivered his best and longest outing of the spring against an “A” Cardinals lineup in Jupiter, and manager Terry Collins was ecstatic afterward.

Even Santana, who usually downplays his efforts a bit, realized this was a major step forward, using and commanding all of his pitches.

Santana worked to a lineup that included Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, David Freese. Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina and Rafael Furcal – an impressive array of hitters. He retired the first 7 batters before giving up a single to Furcal. Both Holliday and Berkman singled in the 4th but Santana stranded them. He had a 1-2-3 5th inning, then gave up back-to-back singles to Tyler Greene and Beltran to open the 6th. He then struck out both Holliday and Freese before Berkman singled in the only run against him, Beltran being caught in a rundown between second and third for the final out of the inning. Santana knew he’d have his hands full with St. Louis but rose to the challenge.

Santana had a great slider, a very good changeup and a fastball that sat between 87-90 MPH for the most part. He threw 69 pitches (48 strikes), did not walk a batter and struck out 5. He was very pleased with the length of his outing.

Collins has been a bit surprised that there has not been one hiccup all spring training, not one day off, not even being pushed back a day for extra rest.

Santana remains on target for Opening Day. He’ll have another start next Monday in Jupiter against these same Cardinals, then probably a minor league start for his final tuneup the following Saturday and his pitch count may be dialed back a bit for that one. Collins will gladly hand him the ball on April 5th.

And how about Santana? Is he down with that?

The Mets lost the game to St. Louis when John Jay singled in the game-winner in the bottom of the 9th against lefty specialist Garrett Olson. Jordany Valdespin had tied it with a solo homer in the top of the 9th. Is Valdespin making the manager think a little bit?

The Astros will visit Port St. Lucie on Thursday. R.A. Dickey will face lefty Wandy Rodriguez.

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