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Mets Spring Training: Mets Expect Johan Santana To Return By Late June, Mid-July

Johan Santana last threw a pitch for the New York Mets on Sept. 2 as he suffered a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder and underwent surgery on Sept. 14. Recovery seems to be going as smoothly as anticipated for the ace lefty; two weeks ago he started tossing a baseball every other day and today general manager Sandy Alderson sketched out a timetable for Santana's return.

He expects Santana to throw from flat ground through April, then advance to the mound in May and said that he sees him contributing in six to eight weeks after that point.

"So if you do the math, it gets you to the end of June, the middle part of July," Alderson said, as quoted in ESPN NY.com.

Santana has a bulldog mentality and he's a very hard worker  so the Mets will undoubtedly be very cautious with accelerating his rehabilitation process. He's "optimistic" about the whole recovery process and his return to pitching, but as ESPN NY notes, Santana could only cite Jorge Posada as another player who has suffered the same injury -- and he doesn't throw 100-plus pitches every five days.

Still, despite the optimism, he's still hesitant -- and rightly so -- about saying he will come back and return to be the type of dominating force he's been throughout his career.

"When you get your arm all cleaned up and fixed, there's always a question mark, because you never know," Santana said. "Time will tell. But if everything goes right and feels good, I'm going to continue playing as much as I can."

Santana is at Mets' spring training, at the request of Terry Collins, to act as a leader. It shows you how much his presence really means to this team and the example he sets for them.

If -- and if is the crucial word here -- the Mets can stay in the race up until Santana returns and he comes back at a high level, his mid-season addition to the rotation could be a huge x-factor for the team as they chase a playoff spot.