Johan solid, Torres clears bases in win
Center fielder triples in three, Nimmo scores in first Mets action
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A lucky break aided the Mets in Johan Santana's long-awaited return to the mound on Tuesday, giving them an 8-6 victory over the Cardinals at Digital Domain Park.
Trailing by a run after Matt Adams' grand slam in the sixth inning, the Mets plated two when Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma could not handle Aderlin Rodriguez's broken-bat grounder in the seventh. Among those scoring on the play was last year's first-round Draft pick, Brandon Nimmo, whom the Mets borrowed from Minor League camp. Aderlin later also scored on Darrell Ceciliani's double.
After Jeurys Familia loaded the bases in the seventh inning on two walks and a single, Adams -- a fringe candidate for a bench spot with the Cardinals -- chased him with a grand slam. That temporarily erased the best efforts of Santana, who held the Cardinals to a hit and a walk over the first two innings. Santana had not appeared in a Major League game since undergoing left shoulder surgery in September 2010.
"I know it's a game situation and you've got to do your job out there, but I was just focused on making sure I did the mechanics the right way and felt good and didn't feel anything in my arm," Santana said. "That's how I felt today. I felt good."
Andres Torres supported Santana with a second straight strong showing at the plate, tripling home three runs against Maikel Cleto in the fourth inning and finishing 2-for-3. Torres also scored the Mets' first run on Jordany Valdespin's sacrifice fly in the third.
Without sluggers Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman in their lineup, the Cards could do little to counter in the early innings against Santana and R.A. Dickey, who came on in relief and struck out two over two perfect innings.
But the Cardinals began breaking through against Jon Rauch in the fifth inning, scoring on Mark Hamilton's double and Ryan Jackson's forceout. Ronny Cedeno singled home an insurance run for the Mets in the sixth, but Familia could not pitch out of trouble twice. In his Grapefruit League debut, the top prospect walked two batters and allowed four hits over 1 2/3 innings.
Up next for the Mets: The one true position battle in camp continues Wednesday, when outfielders Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen travel to Jupiter, Fla., for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Marlins. Baxter and Loewen are battling for the club's vacant fifth outfielder job. Middle infielders Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada will also make the trip for the Mets, with Jon Niese pitching.