PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana looks ready for the regular season.
The left-hander gave up two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, stretching beyond the fourth for the first time this spring, and the New York Mets beat the Houston Astros 5-2 Wednesday.It was Santana's fourth appearance since undergoing elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in September."I'm pretty much ready to go," Santana said. "I was able to throw my changeups down. A couple I missed, and they stayed up, but for the most part everything was down. Being able to go out a sixth inning and work, that was fun."Santana, starting opposite non-roster invitee Casey Daigle, threw 93 pitches, struck out two and walked one. Astros third baseman Chris Johnson homered off Santana with two outs in the fourth. Jeff Keppinger drove in a run in the fifth.Though Santana gave up eight hits, he was able to work on fine-tuning all of his pitches and never got himself into too much trouble."They put the ball in play and got on base, but a couple times I was able to throw the right pitch to get a double play, so it was good," Santana said.Manager Jerry Manuel said Santana will pitch in a minor league game for his last start of spring training because the Mets are playing teams from the National League East around the time his next turn comes up. He is not concerned about getting Santana more innings against major leaguers before the season starts."I think he's ready to go," Manuel said. "He's looking good out there."Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy, who is batting just .167 this spring, hit a two-run, two-out homer off left-hander Tim Byrdak in the sixth inning and went 2 for 4."I'm starting to feel good at the right time," Murphy said. "I had some good at-bats today, and hopefully I can carry that into the season."Fifth-starter contender Jonathon Niese pitched two scoreless innings for the Mets on short rest after getting in one inning of work Sunday during a rain-out against the Astros. He allowed just two hits and struck out two before Francisco Rodriguez closed the game, striking out the side in the ninth.Niese, who finished with another 40 pitches in a side session, looks to be penciled into the No. 5 spot in the rotation with Fernando Nieve likely headed to the bullpen."The last time we called him up (last season), he was impressive, and we have not seen anything different from that," Manuel said. "I kind of see that might fit better for us as we speak here today."
Daigle was starting for the Astros to ensure Roy Oswalt remains on schedule for opening day after Bud Norris missed a start last week because of the stomach flu. ... Rodriguez pitched back-to-back days after making an appearance in a minor league game Tuesday. ... Keppinger, Johnson and outfielder Carlos Lee all finished with two hits for Houston. ... A pair of errors cost the Astros two runs in the seventh.