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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Since returning from elbow tightness, Johan Santana has been saying he’s on track to make his opening-day start for the New York Mets.
He backed that up on Sunday.
In his second Grapefruit League start this spring, Santana tossed five strong innings and the Mets scored nine runs in the seventh for a 12-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
"I felt pretty good out there," said Santana, who didn’t make his first exhibition start until March 12 and then faced minor leaguers last Tuesday.
The 30-year-old lefty was sharp against the Braves, striking out seven. He worked out of one small jam and yielded two hits.
"I was able to command my fastball. I was able to mix up my pitches and throw some sliders to lefties, so I think it was good," Santana said. "I think we’re on the right track. We’re on schedule to do everything as planned."
Santana made one costly mistake, opening the fifth inning by throwing a 2-0 letter-high strike to Matt Diaz, who drove it to left for a solo homer.
"I think he didn’t want to walk anyone in spring training, so he threw it right there. That’s why I went around the bases fast," Diaz said after his second homer this spring.
Diaz improved his average to .395, a number he’s not accustomed to.
"I’ve only had one good spring, and that was three years ago when I needed to make the team," he said. "It’s been nice. I feel like I need this, mentally for myself, especially after coming off an injury last year.
"When you’re injured for a whole year, you forget you know how to play the game. Doubt creeps in here and there. (This spring) is comforting."
Jeremy Reed and Fernando Tatis had run-scoring singles in the fifth to give the Mets a 3-1 lead, but New York broke it open in the seventh, highlighted by Omir Santos’ three-run homer off reliever Eric O’Flaherty.
Reed, a last-minute sub for Carlos Beltran in the cleanup spot, went 4-for-5 with four RBIs and a pair of doubles. Acquired from Seattle in the offseason, Reed has caught the eye of Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
"He’s had a real good spring," Manuel said. "He’s put himself in a really good position. His ability to play the outfield and first base, plus swing the bat, is very valuable in the National League."
Braves pitcher Jair Jurrjens, the club’s No. 3 starter, worked 4 2-3 solid innings, giving up one run and four hits.Notes: Beltran (stiff neck) and 1B Carlos Delgado (rest), both of whom batted over .400 for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, were out of the Mets’ lineup. C Brian Schneider (strained calf) also was out. Manuel said all three should play Wednesday against Detroit. ... Mets RHP Brandon Knight cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A Buffalo.