Johan Santana is unsure whether he'll be able to pitch in the World Baseball Classic following off-season knee surgery.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner said Wednesday he'd love to play for his native Venezuela in March, but the New York Mets will determine whether to clear him for the WBC.
“My mind is set to play, but at this point I don't know what is going to happen with the medical staff and the team. They have a lot to protect,'' Santana said during a telephone conference call. “If they don't want me to play then I won't play.''
After a brilliant first season with the Mets, Santana had arthroscopic surgery Oct. 1 on torn cartilage in his left knee. He said he feels good and he might report about a week early to New York's spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla., next month.
“Just to make sure that we're all on the same page and just to make sure that we follow everything that we're supposed to follow,'' he said.
The left-hander said he's spoken to New York general manager Omar Minaya about his rehabilitation and the chances of him pitching in the WBC.
“I don't really know what they're going to do,'' Santana said. “He told me if everything goes right, then he might let me play. “At the same time, there's some question marks that we have to answer once we start working out in Port St. Lucie.''
Venezuela's first game in the WBC is March 7 against Italy in Toronto.
Santana participated in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, when Venezuela was eliminated in the second round. The squad had problems with several issues including team meals and tickets for players' family members, but Santana sounded confident that all that had been rectified.
“I'm pretty sure that they're organized,'' he said. “The players' association here has said everything will be in place.''
Santana was 16-7 with a major league-best 2.53 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 234 1-3 innings last season after the Mets acquired him from Minnesota in a blockbuster trade. He completed the first season of a $137.5 million, six-year contract.
Following doctors' orders, Santana has focused his offseason conditioning work on bike riding in order to keep pressure off his knee. He said he'll be examined by trainers in a week and he expects to begin throwing next week -- about the same time as usual.
“I'm not trying to rush anything up,'' he said. “I've been doing everything the way that I've done in the past.''
Maybe even a little extra.
“Because now I have to worry about my knee,'' he said.
Santana is the ace of a Mets rotation that also includes Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and perhaps newcomer Tim Redding. New York pursued free-agent starter Derek Lowe but was outbid by Atlanta.
“I don't think this is the end of the world,'' Santana said. “I'm pretty sure Omar is still working and still trying to improve our rotation. He still has some time to get some other guys.''
Santana would like to see the Mets re-sign lefty Oliver Perez.
“I think Oliver is a pitcher who learned a lot from last year. Hopefully, Omar will find a way to keep him because he's matured a lot,'' Santana said. “I think he learned that every game is important. He's not just a great guy, a great teammate, but he's going to be a great pitcher.''