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Mets won't let Santana play in World Baseball Classic

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets on Monday officially denied Johan Santana permission to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, citing concern over his overall health and ability to prepare for the season.

"He wants to play," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We know that. We'd like him to be able to pitch. But under the circumstances, we don't think it's in his best interest or ours."

"Our country is big in baseball," Santana said, acknowledging that he understood the decision. "We love the game. To have an opportunity to have an international competition is very important, and I know how important it is. And I really wanted to be part of it."

Though Santana, 33, was not on the provisional roster that Team Venezuela released last month, he reported to Mets camp hoping to play. Doing so would have required the Classic to insure the $31 million remaining on his contract, because Santana ended last season on the disabled list.

Even if Santana had managed to overcome that issue, the Mets had no desire to subject him to the rigors of full-speed competition so early in March. Team Venezuela plays its first game on March 7, with players reporting to camp about a week earlier.

To join them, Santana would have needed to accelerate his throwing program. The left-hander has thrown off a mound just once since August, firing 20 pitches on Sunday. Returning to the Mets last year after more than a full season spent rehabbing from left shoulder surgery, Santana battled through an ankle injury, lower back inflammation, and an extreme second-half drop-off in performance.

"I'm glad he's going to be in camp so we can monitor what's going on," manager Terry Collins said. "If it had been OK with Sandy and everyone else, I was fine with it. But I'm glad he's going to be here."

The Mets planned to inform Major League Baseball of their decision on Monday, while Santana planned to personally contact Venezuelan manager Luis Sojo. David Wright will be the Mets' lone representative in this year's Classic.

Even without Santana, Venezuela is considered one of the favorites in next month's event.

"That's something I really wanted to do, represent my country," said Santana, who did not pitch in the 2009 Classic due to rehab from knee surgery. "At the same time, I understand everything [the Mets] are saying and doing, and there's not much I can do about it."

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