DUNEDIN — Sergio Santos had barely stepped foot off the field Wednesday morning, following an inning of work in a minor league split-squad game, when a member of the Toronto Blue Jays medical staff awaited an evaluation of how his body reacted to his 18-pitch effort.
“I told him, my shoulder, elbow, everything felt great. That I didn’t need anything, I’m good,” said a smiling Santos, who threw 12 strikes.
And that was the most encouraging news out of the Mattick Complex on a day the big-leaguers went to Bradenton to play the Pittsburgh Pirates. Santos, who slowed down these last ten days of Spring Training with triceps soreness after it tightened up on him against the Phillies Mar. 3, suffered no setback in his first outing since facing Philadelphia.
“In that last game I got ramped up a little bit, and got back into game mode, and my tricep barked a little bit,” said Santos. “But luckily it’s a muscle… Luckily I’m beyond it and looking forward.
"I liked the command of my fastball. The way my fastball was coming out was good. It's definitely a positive step forward."
The next benchmark on the recovery path from last year's season-ending shoulder surgery comes Saturday when Santos is scheduled to throw the sixth inning of the Blue Jays spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles.
"My most important thing is locating my fastball and throwing it for strikes," he said. "I'll flip a couple sliders in there Saturday and throw some changeups, like I did (Wednesday).
"It's a process. And maybe the next two weeks, I start ramping it up and getting ready for the season."
Whether or not Santos will be ready for Opening Day is still undetermined.
Toronto's answer at closer remains up in the air as Casey Janssen, continuing to rehab from his Nov. 16 surgery, threw another bullpen side session Tuesday, but still has no timeline for when he may return to pitch in a game.
Santos is ahead of Janssen medically, and it should soon be clear how the eighth and ninth innings will shake down out for the Blue Jays' bullpen.
Santos forecasts that he'll either throw in consecutive games on back-to-back days, or pitch two innings at some point next week, which is where manager John Gibbons thought Santos had to be by the end of March.
"I still have that left in the books. I definitely want to do that before I go out and start the season," said Santos, who gave up two hits and walked a batter Wednesday. "I'm right where I want to be right now."