Santana says he’s ‘way ahead’ in rehab

Former Cy Young winner Johan Santana says he is "way ahead" of schedule as he rehabs his surgically repaired left shoulder, the New York Post reported Tuesday.

Santana threw the ball 110 times Monday on flat ground at the Mets’ spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

His throws were crisp, accurate, and most important, his left shoulder is pain free. When he was done with throws from as far as 150 feet — he made 10 pinpoint tosses from that distance — he walked over and presented the baseball to a Post journalist.

"Here’s evidence of a hard day’s work," Santana said with a smile.

On a day the Mets got more bad news about their pitching — young Jenrry Mejia will need elbow surgery — here is really good news: Santana will begin throwing from the slope of the mound perhaps as early as next week, a limited number of pitches, and then a gradual build-up.

"I’m looking forward to that," Santana told the Post. "I feel great. Obviously, I am not in the position where I can compete right now, but I’m right where I should be. As the medical staff has said, I’m way ahead of everything. I’m very pleased and happy with how everything is right now."

He will not offer a target return date, but Santana could be back with the Mets in early July. Every phase of his rehab, though, is built upon success in the previous phase.

Once Santana makes it to 180 feet on flat ground, he will be permitted to throw from the slope of the mound. If that goes well, Santana will advance to the pitching rubber. Then it is on to 200 feet on flat ground and more mound work.

"At that point, we’re ready to start spring training," said Mets rehab coordinator Randy Niemann, who had been the Mets’ bullpen coach and has a strong bond with Santana.

"He’s making great progress. It’s a strength factor in the shoulder that we’re building," Niemann added. "He’s made amazing progress because we started from 60 feet just playing catch."

The 32-year-old, two-time Cy Young Award winner underwent shoulder surgery last September after going 11-9 with a 2.98 ERA in 2010.