By Ed Coleman

By Ed Coleman
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It’s been a circuitous route that Johan Santana has traveled this season, and the next stop will be Savannah, Georgia tonight. There Santana will make his next rehab start for the Mets’ Single-A affiliate Sand Gnats as they take on the Augusta Greenjackets in the South Atlantic League playoffs.

Santana joined the Mets while they were in Miami and threw a bullpen on Tuesday under the watchful eyes of manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. Collins was impressed.

And what, if anything, was different about this bullpen than the one that Collins and his staff observed also in Miami back in late July.

Santana loves to long-toss and really incorporated it as a key part of his rehab coming off shoulder surgery. But sometimes there can be too much of a good thing, as Santana explained what happened after his last rehab start.

It has been almost a year – September 14, 2010 – since Santana had the torn anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder repaired. Because the minor league seasons are rapidly coming to a close, Santana could pitch on the major league level, or possibly the instructional league or even winter ball if necessary. He was asked how he feels about pitching in the majors.

Pitching at the highest level at this stage of the recovery process could also present some distractions – too much adrenaline, the hoopla, the excitement – does Collins feel that Santana might be adversely affected by those factors?

And if Johan didn’t pitch at the major league level this season, would that be OK with the manager?

Catcher Josh Thole, who’s caught Santana and knows him well, saw him up close and personal on Tuesday in Florida.

If everything goes well on Friday night, and all involved are confident it will, Santana has a lot of options at his disposal.

His pitching coach, Warthen, believes in the old adage that the more you can find out about your situation, while still being sensible, the better off you will be.

And his manager, Collins, believes that when healthy, Santana can and will be an ace once again.

If anyone can re-invent himself as a No. 1, it’s probably No. 57. How he feels tonight and tomorrow may go a long way towards determining that.

Will Santana return to form and anchor the Mets’ rotation in 2012? Sound off in the comments below…