NEW YORK -- For Mets manager Terry Collins, there's a big difference between Major League experience and winning in the Major Leagues. And for his young roster -- and soon a handful of September callups -- there's only one way to learn the latter -- win.
"When you have players in the Minor Leagues, [they say] 'Get the players ready. Don't worry about your record,'" Collins said. "[But] you've got to teach them how to win. Part of that is learning the game, how to give yourself up and how to make a productive out. Our young players up here, we're still learning how to win here."
This season took a turn for the worse for the Mets following July's All-Star break, but despite dwindling chances of a postseason berth, Collins said every game serves as an opportunity to learn how to win.
Not that the Mets have given up or anything. Josh Thole said prior to Sunday's game that the Mets have their eye on the postseason until the day they are mathematically eliminated -- the 2011 Rays and Cardinals might happily take blame for that. But Collins said every win has a big impact on player development.
"I don't want any of these guys to walk out of here and be satisfied if we finish the year below .500," Collins said. "'Well, I got my chance to play and I proved I could play in the big leagues.' You've got to prove you can win up here, because that ultimately is what it's all about."
The Mets didn't come into 2012 with the pressure of high expectations, but the team's first-half performance added to the disappointment of its recent collapse. And according to Collins, his team upped the bar for what will be expected in 2013.
"We've lost three-fifths of our starting rotation. We lost our closer for 30 days. Two or three of the guys who had tremendous first halves aren't here," Collins said. "Those are big pieces that we've got [who have] to get better. ... It's all about process. We've got some pieces that will work. We've just got to make sure they get better."
Mets not planning on shutting down healthy Johan
NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins said on Sunday that Johan Santana is healthy and that he has no intentions of shutting him down for the remainder of the 2012 season.
Santana lasted just 1 1/3 innings on Saturday night against Atlanta, giving up eight earned runs in his first start since returning from the disabled list. He has given up at least six earned runs in each of his past four starts, and his ERA has risen from 2.76 to 4.58 since tossing eight shutout innings against the Dodgers on June 30.
"Right now we're just going one game at a time and seeing how it goes," Santana said after Saturday's start. "The good thing is my shoulder is fine from surgery, but that's something we'll talk about. I hope to finish the season pitching, but I don't know later on what's going to happen."
Santana -- whose recent stint on the DL with a sprained right ankle provided the southpaw's rebuilt shoulder with much needed rest -- has, as a whole, exceeded expectations in 2012, especially considering how few pitchers have successfully rebounded from the surgery he underwent to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder in September 2010. But while Collins acknowledged that monitoring Santana's health is the priority, allowing him to finish the season in the rotation would provide confidence that he hopes will carry over into 2013.
"His health is obviously the most important thing, but getting through the season, I think, is pretty important," Collins said. "Do we go to a sixth guy so that he and Chris [Young] have some extra days? That's all going to be talked about."
Collins may use September callups as an opportunity to provide both Santana and Young -- who underwent the same surgery as Santana last season and didn't return until June of this year -- with extra rest heading down the home stretch. But as of right now, the primary focus surrounding Santana is preparing for Friday's start against the Nationals.
"I haven't talked to [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] about it, I haven't talked to [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] about it," Collins said, "but I have no plans at the immediate time of shutting Johan Santana down."
Strikeouts becoming a problem for Mets
NEW YORK -- The Mets' 11 strikeouts on Saturday night against Atlanta fell right in line with what has become a recent trend.
The Mets were praised earlier this season for their two-out -- and specifically two-strike -- efficiency, but the team's recent inability to put the ball in play has manager Terry Collins looking for an answer.
"There's a concern, make no mistake about it," Collins said. "There wouldn't be a concern if we were hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Guys with power strike out, but at the same time, they hit some homers. We have a lot of guys striking out who shouldn't be strikeout guys."
Entering Sunday, the Mets had struck out 69 times in August, including 11 by David Wright and nine by Andres Torres. In contrast, the team hit just four home runs and entered the game with a .246 overall batting average.
"We've been striking out quite a bit," Collins said. "It's one thing if you go 1-for-4 and hit a ball in the seats but strike out three times, but it's another thing if you've got to scratch out singles."
Rob Johnson got the start behind the plate on Sunday night -- his second of the team's three-game set against Atlanta. Terry Collins said he opted to start Johnson over Josh Thole against Braves right-hander Ben Sheets because Johnson was 3-for-5 with two home runs in his career against Sheets entering Sunday.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.