By Ed Coleman
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If you listen to Johan Santana, Terry Collins and some members of the Mets’ heirarchy, they still believe that Santana can be the Opening Day starter against San Diego at Citi Field on April 1.

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And you know what?  He possibly can. But it’s going to be tight.

It would require a lighter schedule than most starting pitchers log during spring training, and the math that the Mets gave on Friday morning when announcing that Santana would be pushed back really doesn’t add up.

Here’s what Collins had to say on Friday afternoon after the Mets’ intrasquad game.

All right — six days between starts.  Normally, a starting pitcher makes five spring starts, starting with two innings and adding an inning each time out (three, four, five and then six).  That’s usually followed by a final tuneup (sixth start) of between 80-100 pitches, and it’s usually six days before that pitcher’s regular-season debut.  Collins further expounded on Santana’s tentative spring schedule.

So that’s just four starts instead of the usual six, and if you count back from Opening Day on April 1 and factor in six days between all the starts, Santana would have to be on the mound for game action no later than March 8  —  exactly two weeks from today.

Possible?  Sure.  Likely?  Not sure.

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General manager Sandy Alderson said on Friday morning that Santana would be bumped back from his original March 2 spring debut date to somewhere in the March 10-15 range.  That won’t cut it, but can Santana build up enough arm strength in the next two weeks to make, meet and successfully follow that schedule for the opener?  I’m sure he probably can, but only if it makes sense — and you don’t rush him or push him unnecessarily to get it done.

After an initial bullpen session on a cold, windy day in Port St. Lucie, Santana threw another pen on the main field on Thursday away from the press and spectators.  Neither went well.

Santana started throwing in December of 2011 after undergoing anterior capsule shoulder surgery to get ready for the 2012 season.  He was shut down last August after ankle and back injuries sidelined him, and he really had not thrown much outside of playing catch until he arrived here for spring training.  Collins was asked why Santana had been shut down like that.

For his part, Santana is not concerned.

A setback?  Not according to Santana, who still believes that he’ll be there on April 1.

Highlights from the Mets’ intrasquad game on Friday:
Wilmer Flores was the star, with a three-run homer off of LaTroy Hawkins and a sacrifice fly for a four-RBI day.  Zach Lutz, Juan Centeno and Jordany Valdespin each had a pair of hits, and Valdespin hit a solo home run.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a leadoff walk and threw out a runner at third.  Brandon Hicks had an RBI double, outfielder Andrew Brown played well and lefties Scott Rice and Robert Carson had impressive innings.

The first exhibition game is on Saturday against Washington at Tradition Field. Shaun Marcum will face Stephen Strasburg.

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If Johan is unable to go on April 1, which starter should get the Opening Day nod? Jon Niese? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…