PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- In an effort to simulate game conditions as accurately as possible, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen waited until Johan Santana had finished his warmups before launching into his finest public-address voice.
"Batting first, the center fielder, Andres Torres," Warthen boomed as Santana squatted nearby. "Batting second, the second baseman, Daniel Murphy. ..."
Warthen rolled through the next four batters before catching Santana's ear.
"Batting seventh, the pitcher..." Warthen began as Santana leaped out of his crouch, cackling at the presumption.
Santana's bat, the Mets know, is not quite so valuable as his surgically-repaired left shoulder. His bat is not what caused another large crowd to gather for his fourth spring bullpen session, prompting manager Terry Collins to remark that "something exciting must be going on over here."
The excitement involved 31 pitches over two simulated innings, with a roughly five-minute break between them. Including warmups, Santana made a total of 72 throws before leaving the mound to begin his running program
"I want to see how my arm recovers from everything," Santana said. "That's what I'm most looking forward to."
Santana plans to throw a long-toss session on Wednesday and a live bullpen session against hitters on Friday, before making his Grapefruit League debut against the Cardinals on March 6. The goal is still an Opening Day assignment for Santana, who remains on track to meet it.
"As long as he continues to grow," Collins said, "as long as his health continues to be maintained, it was a good day."
Zimmerman deal may not alter Wright's fate
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Don't read too much into how Ryan Zimmerman's $100 million extension with the Nationals may factor into David Wright's future contract dealings. Though the two players have performed comparably in their careers to date, they share fewer similarities in market value.
To start, Zimmerman is two years younger than Wright. Because he never signed a long-term deal early in his career, as Wright did, Zimmerman was able to milk more money by waiting until age 28 -- smack in the middle of his physical prime -- to sign, even though his extension will not kick in until age 30. Wright, by contrast, could be as old as 32 when he inks his next deal, on the wrong side of his own prime years. The likelihood of him receiving anything more than a four-year deal at that point seems remote.
That situation stems from the fact that Wright signed a six-year, $55 million extension as a 24-year-old back in 2006, with a seventh-year option for $16 million -- the type of deal that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson calls a "first-generation" free-agent contract, as opposed to the more common "second-generation" deals for free agents with at least six years of service time.
Compared to Zimmerman's pact, $55 million may not seem like much. Had Wright not signed that deal, he would have been a free agent after the 2010 season and likely would have signed a contract even more lucrative than Zimmerman's, guaranteeing him more total money over the course of his career. But such is the risk that many stars take to ensure lifetime security at a young age.
"You're talking about a kid from Virginia, working middle-class being offered that kind of money when you're  years old," Wright said. "It's a no-brainer for me. So if I had to do it all over again, I'd do the same. I don't play the game to make every single dollar that I can."
On the field, Wright and Zimmerman share more than simply position and division. Good friends since their childhood days in AAU ball, both are proven middle-of-the-order hitters coming off injury-plagued seasons, with Wright featuring sharper overall hitting skills and Zimmerman offering better defense.
Zimmerman's contract did reset the market for third basemen, especially ones as similar to him as Wright. But differences exist and much can change in two years, meaning Zimmerman's deal is not a perfect barometer. For his part, Wright said he does not anticipate approaching the Mets to talk extension any time soon, preferring to let the team come to him. Assuming the Mets pick up his option year, Wright can become a free agent after the 2013 season.
"This stuff takes time," Wright said. "You don't just come up with this overnight. We haven't approached the Mets and the Mets haven't approached my side, so it's kind of status quo."