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Johan returns to mound with 20 pitches

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When Johan Santana takes the mound on April 1 in Flushing, temperatures could easily dip into the 40s or colder.

Florida's Treasure Coast felt about that frigid on Sunday, even if thermometers at Tradition Field read 10 degrees warmer. The wind and cold generated a fitting atmosphere for Santana, the Mets' Opening Day starter, who climbed atop a bullpen mound to deliver his first pitches since last August.

"I guess I picked the coldest day of Spring Training to start everything," Santana quipped.

Throwing approximately 20 pitches to bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello, Santana said afterward that he felt fine -- a little chilly, but otherwise as sharp as any pitcher could hope to be this time of year. Not having thrown off a mound since the Mets placed him on the disabled list last August, Santana admitted to some minor nerves. But he also looked forward to rapid progression.

"I don't think it was my best or anything, but it's Day 1," Santana said. "You've got to start at some point."

Though Santana experienced no major issues with his surgically repaired left elbow in 2012, he did endure a significant drop in production after throwing 134 pitches during his June 1 no-hitter. The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner posted a 2.38 ERA up to that point, and an 8.27 ERA afterward.

The Mets finally shut Santana down in August, citing lower back inflammation as the reason. Santana was still concerned at the time about his balky right ankle, and he revealed last week that the Mets planned to shut him down at some point during the summer all along.

Following months of rest, Santana reported to camp last Monday fresh off his first "normal" offseason in years. The Mets expect Santana to start their March 2 Grapefruit League game against the Marlins, setting him on track to start Opening Day at Citi Field.

"Today was a beginning for me," Santana said. "You always worry about how you feel and everything, but at the same time, I was just trying to get my job done."

Added manager Terry Collins: "It's routine in the sense that he's going about it the way he always used to go about it. We know he's healthy. We know he's rested. So we'll just make sure that he doesn't skip a beat."