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03/26/12 6:13 PM ET

Santana learning limits in post-injury reality

JUPITER, Fla. -- A reality check came in the first inning Monday for Johan Santana, as well as for all those invested in his surgically repaired left shoulder. It came in the form of a bases-loaded jam, with Santana not only unable to throw his fastballs for strikes, but also unable to deliver them with anything more than mid-80s zip.

Then, as quickly as it had crescendoed, the ominous music ceased. Santana struck out a batter, allowed a sacrifice fly and struck out another. He whiffed two more in the second inning, adding velocity all the while. By the time Santana was done, he had thrown five innings of two-run ball, whiffing five and walking three, with all three free passes coming in the first.

"It seemed like his command was all over the place," third baseman David Wright said. "You don't see him walking guys and hitting guys. It just seemed to me like his command was a little off and then he found it, and had a couple really good innings."

"It was just one of those days where it takes a little longer," Santana said. "That's all it was."

The Mets have been sensitive to any irregularities for their prized left-hander this spring, knowing how difficult it can be to recover from anterior shoulder capsule surgery. Even manager Terry Collins, whose optimism usually knows no bound, said recently that he never expected Santana to perform this consistently with no setbacks whatsoever.

Monday was simply evidence that, as well as he has pitched all spring, Santana is not invincible. To that end, in what marked the apex of his spring progression, Santana threw 88 pitches. He will back off that total in his final start five days from now, before taking the mound for Opening Day on April 5.

That means Santana may have to stomach a lighter workload early in the season, at least relative to what he has done in the past. His innings totals will depend mostly upon his efficiency in games.

"It's a process that I have to go through until I establish everything at a high count," Santana said. "You're going to have good and bad days. That's just the way it is.

"I'm getting there," he continued. "I still have one more start to go and see how everything goes. But I've been able to do everything the way it has been scheduled, and that's huge for me. That's something that I haven't experienced for a while."

Mets to honor Carter on Opening Day

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Mets will honor late Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter on Opening Day, with Carter's family participating in a pregame ceremony at Citi Field.

Carter's wife, Sandy, son, D.J., and daughters, Kimmy and Christy, will be on the field with their families during a moment of silence and ceremonial first pitch in the catcher's honor. Carter passed away Feb. 16 following a 10-month battle with brain cancer.

"Our family is so honored to be part of the Mets' Opening Day at Citi Field," Sandy Carter said. "It will be an incredible experience for us to celebrate Gary's legacy by having our family throw out the first pitch. The Mets and the fans of New York always had a special place in Gary's heart and that admiration will live on in our hearts for years to come. Thanks to the Wilpon family and the entire Mets organization for making this possible."

"We are thrilled that the Carters will be with us," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said. "On Opening Day, Mets fans will have the chance to pay their respects and remember all of his accomplishments."

Carter spent five of his 19 big league seasons with the Mets, most famously playing a significant role in their 1986 World Series title. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2001 and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

The Mets have already begun wearing a patch on their right uniform sleeve to honor Carter, featuring a black home plate with the words "KID 8" in white lettering, a reference to Carter's nickname and uniform number.

As Niese's nose shrinks, Beltran's stays same

JUPITER, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran kept his promise, after all

Beltran has officially paid his debts to Mets pitcher Jon Niese, forking over $10,000 for the Rhinoplasty operation that he originally recommended. Though Niese underwent the procedure in October without speaking to Beltran about the finances, he did so with the understanding that his former teammate would eventually pay him for it.

Shortly after Niese first told the story in February, Beltran grew coy when asked about the deal. As Niese told it, Beltran offered to pay for the operation after badgering the left-hander to do it for cosmetic reasons.

It turned out to be a blessing. A consultation revealed extensive damage to Niese's nose structure, which was preventing him from breathing normally. The operation helped Niese rededicate himself to cardiovascular work this winter and ultimately lose 10 pounds.

But the money, until recently, was still in doubt.

"I'm not a debt collector," Niese said earlier this month, amused by how much attention the episode was receiving. "If he pays me, he pays me. I'm not worried about it. It'd be nice, but it's not going to make or break me."

Olson no worse for wear after hospital visit

JUPITER, Fla. -- Because so few eyewitnesses were present, and because the Mets so quickly whisked him to the hospital for a precautionary X-ray, Garrett Olson incited a ripple of concern Sunday when he suffered a left hand bruise fielding a comebacker to the mound.

"My mom was freaking out," Olson said a day later, laughing. "I was like, 'It's OK.'"

Attempting to turn a double play in a Minor League game, Olson instinctively reacted to a one-hopper back to the mound, sticking his left hand out to stab the ball. It struck him near the base of his left thumb, causing more consternation than actual pain. Olson planned to throw again on Monday.

"It hit the meat of the hand," Olson said. "But it was in a spot where they just wanted to be cautious."

Assuming no further problems, Olson remains the frontrunner to make the Opening Day bullpen as a sub for lefty specialist Tim Byrdak. His primary competition is Josh Edgin, who has struck out eight batters over 6 2/3 scoreless spring innings -- but who has never pitched above Class A ball.

Torres takes BP for first time since injury

JUPITER, Fla. -- Slowly, the Mets' murky center-field situation is beginning to take shape.

Andres Torres took batting practice Monday for the first time since straining his left calf, but he spent most of the session simply tracking pitches. Torres could attempt to run as soon as Tuesday.

Though the Mets have merely nine Grapefruit League games remaining, Torres still has an outside chance to be ready for Opening Day if he returns to action soon. Mets manager Terry Collins has indicated in the past that it would be difficult for Torres to make the roster if he misses a week or more of games.

"Today is the best I've felt," Torres said earlier Monday, a full week after initially tweaking his calf. "Today, I feel really good."

Backup center fielder Scott Hairston is further along in his rehab from a strained left oblique muscle. Hairston took batting practice again Monday and hopes to make his spring debut on Wednesday.

If both Torres and Hairston are healthy come Opening Day, the Mets would have only one bench spot in question, choosing between Mike Baxter and Adam Loewen as their lefty-hitting fifth outfielder. If Torres cannot go, Vinny Rottino would likely make the team as well, with Jordany Valdespin a fringe consideration.

Worth noting

• Outfielder Jason Bay reported no problems with his right forearm Monday, one day after Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg struck him with a fastball. Wearing a cloth wrap around his arm, Bay said he should not miss any significant time.

• The Mets released nine players from Minor League camp on Monday, including right-handed pitcher Tobi Stoner, who reached the Majors in 2009 and '10. The organization also released left-handed pitchers Eric Niesen, Roy Merritt and Chris Hilliard; right-handed pitchers Nick Carr, Ronny Morla and Steve Winnick; infielder Lucas Stewart; and outfielder Chase Greene.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.