Johan Santana is “making strides” with his throwing program

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Johan Santana was originally scheduled to make his spring debut on March 2, but the Mets announced last week that it will be pushed back due to a conditioning issue related to his throwing. While he hasn’t returned to mound-work since, the Mets are pleased with the progress he has made in recent days.

According to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, Mets manager Terry Collins said earlier today that Santana has looked stronger in recent sessions off flat ground.

“I told him already today: He looked better today than he did five days ago,” Collins said. “I think the long-toss program is making strides.”

The Mets said last week that Santana’s issue wasn’t structural, so it appears his shoulder is fine. Spring training is longer than usual this year because of the World Baseball Classic, so the hope is that he’ll have enough time to get ready for the season as long as he makes his debut by March 10 or 11.

Santana, who turns 34 next month, posted a 4.85 ERA and 111/39 K/BB ratio over 117 innings last season prior to being shut down. He’s owed $25.5 million this season while his contract includes a $5.5 million buyout on a $25 million option for 2014.

Mets sign Jose Lobaton to minor league deal

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The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, where it’s assumed Lobaton will be in the mix for a backup role behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.

Lobaton, 33, is coming off of a four-year stint with the Nationals. He put up his worst career numbers in 2017, producing -0.6 fWAR after slashing just .170/.248/.277 with four home runs in 158 plate appearances. While he’ll give the Mets little to work with at the plate, his near-decade of experience behind the dish should make him a decent emergency option, if nothing else.

In the meantime, the Mets are expected to roll with a d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon to start the season. Both catchers saw slight upticks in value over the 2017 season: d’Arnaud turned in 0.8 fWAR after hitting a career-high 16 home runs, while Plawecki collected 0.6 fWAR and three homers after raising his batting line over the Mendoza Line for the first time since 2015.