PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It appears more and more likely that Johan Santana will be headed to the disabled list after the New York Mets again pushed back the schedule for their ace to make his spring training debut.
Santana didn't pitch in the major leagues in 2011 following shoulder surgery, then went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA in 21 starts last year, when he pitched the first no-hitter in Mets history on June 1 against St. Louis. The 33-year-old left-hander didn't pitch after Aug. 17 because of lower back inflammation and did not throw much during the offseason.
The Mets say he doesn't have enough arm strength for exhibition games.
"Right now, it's day to day with Johan,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said after Saturday's 9-6 win over the Houston Astros. "We certainly would hope something next week, but if it's not, it's not. Again, part of our conversation is, he's ready when he's ready.''
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson had said March 2 that Santana needed 10 more days to build up arm strength before he could appear in a spring training game.
Santana did not work out with the team Saturday, instead opting to do more arm and shoulder stretches inside the training complex.
Collins already has looked at the schedule for the first week of the season, which includes a day off on April 2 following the opener against San Diego.
"We've been trying to look down the road,'' Collins said. "Due to the day off, the one day off, be it the case that Jo is not one of those first five guys, we don't need a fifth guy until the seventh. Again, we're just taking it day by day right now.''
If Santana is put on the 15-day DL during spring training, the earliest he could be activated would be April 7.
Mets starter Jeremy Hefner could be a beneficiary of Santana's health issues and take over a starting slot early in the season. Hefner allowed one hit in three scoreless innings against Houston.
"The last couple outings, continuing back to about his last two or three starts last year, he's been outstanding,'' Collins said. "His command has been very good, his change of speeds have been good; he's done a nice job. Certainly coming into this camp, in a lot of people's minds, he was our No. 6 guy. Certainly he's going to continue to pitch and if we need a guy, we know he's going to be ready.''
Hefner is not preparing any differently because of Santana's arm issue.
"Obviously it hinges on Johan, how he feels and that type of thing,'' Hefner said. "I only can control me, my approach and my bullpens and that's what I'm going to continue to do and let Johan rehab and continue to do what he needs to do to pitch. I go into every spring hoping to make the big league team and that didn't change this offseason, this spring. That's the ultimate goal and whatever happens will happen.''
Hefner, who threw two more simulated innings after leaving Saturday's game, got help from center fielder Matt den Dekker, who made a sliding grab on the warning track of Trevor Crowe's long fly ball in the third inning, catching the ball in the webbing of his glove.
Lucas Duda and John Buck drove in two runs each and Ike Davis scored three times. Duda went 3 for 3 with a double, while Buck had two hits and increased his spring training RBIs total to seven. Davis was 2 for 2 with a walk, stolen base and a RBI.
Duda, who has been working on a new swing this spring, went 3-for-3 with a double. Collins said he can see Duda starting to get into a rhythm at the plate.
"I feel good,'' said Duda, who has changed the mechanics on his swing. "I'm working hard every day. I'm working hard with my swing every day, trying to get better. (This) is just one day. I'll just continue to work hard in (batting practice).''
Houston's Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer in the fourth. Astros starter Alex White gave up four runs and five hits in 2 2-3 innings.
"I threw a lot of strikes, made some really good pitches, gave up some hits that were not hit really well and that's going to happen,'' White said. "I threw a lot of strikes, that's a big key for me. I feel good about the outing. Obviously, the numbers aren't what I want them to be, but, once again, it's a little early.''
NOTES: Astros RHP Lucas Harrell will not make his scheduled start against the Phillies on Sunday due to discomfort in his right groin. Houston manager Bo Porter said Harrell likely would have pitched during the regular season. ... Astros LHP Eric Bedard (right glute) threw off a mound. He has not pitched since his spring training debut on Feb. 26. ... Collins said CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (knee) could play Wednesday and 2B Daniel Murphy (strained intercostal muscle) could make his spring training debut next week.