Santana tosses six strong in win

March 20, 2008 8:11:58 PM PDT
The New York Mets got a sharp outing from Johan Santana and took a close look at reliever Duaner Sanchez on Thursday night.Santana pitched five-hit ball for six innings in a 7-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on a cool night at Tradition Field. The left-hander struck out seven and walked one.

But Mets officials were probably more concerned with Sanchez, who allowed one hit in a scoreless inning. The right-hander, who hasn't pitched in a regular-season game since hurting his shoulder in a July 2006 taxi accident, has tossed five innings this spring.

Sanchez touched 91 mph on the radar gun and said he felt better than in past outings. He threw 11 pitches, including nine fastballs. His endurance is getting better, too.

"It's getting a lot better," he said. "I can get my throwing in and that's all that matters."

While Santana's spot on the team is assured, Sanchez needs to prove to the Mets that he is healthy enough to contribute on a regular basis.

With time running out in spring training, it's uncertain whether Sanchez will meet manager Willie Randolph's criteria for starting the season. Randolph said he wants to see Sanchez pitch on back-to-back days before coming back to the team.

"We want to go into the season full strength," Randolph said.

Sanchez said that won't pitch Friday, but he could appear in consecutive games next week.

"It's not up to me, it's up to them," he said.

Though opening day is on the minds of most, Sanchez said he's more concerned about coming back healthy.

"I don't want to be there for the first month and not be there for the next four or five," he said. "I want to be there for the whole season."

Relief pitchers Joe Smith, Brian Stokes and Rule 5 draft pick Steven Register are possibilities if Sanchez isn't ready.

Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado returned to the field after he was sidelined by a freak accident Sunday. Delgado needed four stitches for a bloody gash in his right forearm after he was hit by the jagged barrel of Brady Clark's broken bat while taking a lead off third base.

Santana dominated with his arm and his swing. He doubled, scored a run and later drew a walk.

"He did it both on the mound and he had two big at-bats for them," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He finished on his pitches, he worked both sides of the plate and his changeup was very good."

Santana said he's going to need to learn how to handle batting and pitching in the same inning.

"That was the toughest thing to do as a pitcher to run the bases and to try to score like that and then go back out there and pitch," he said. "It's not easy."

Santana said he hasn't heard whether he'll be the Mets' opening-day starter.

"I've got to wait," he said.

Orioles starter Jon Leicester went 3 2-3 innings, giving up two runs and six hits. He walked four and struck out one.

The assigned infielder Olmedo Saenz to minor league camp.