PORT ST. LUCIE — Johan Santana never quite found his footing during his latest exhibition outing.
The Mets ace struggled for the first time this spring and was pulled during the third inning of Friday's 9-0 loss to the Tigers.
Out of the majors last year while recovering from shoulder surgery, Santana had not allowed a run in his first two starts. But the two-time Cy Young winner gave up five runs — four earned — on four hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings. He didn't have any strikeouts.
"It was a challenge out there," said Santana, who complained that the mound was soft. "They made me work, but I felt good. I was able to throw some fastballs with more intensity this time and I'm feeling good. It's a process and I'm building up."
"… But at the same time I was competing out there and these guys are swinging and challenging me," he said. "I was trying to make some adjustments, but I was fine. Today was the first time in a long time I went over 60 pitches and it was all right."
Santana retired the Tigers in order on just 14 pitches in the first inning, but he threw 26 pitches in the second and 25 more in the third. Mets manager Terry Collins said Santana was fatigued after the second.
"It's one of those things you sometimes see pitchers do," Collins said. "They pound the strike zone, pound the strike zone, and they're fouling, fouling, and they can't get those low-pitch outs and it probably wore him down a bit. But the bright spot was he came out good, he came out healthy."
No Worries about Buehrle: Marlins left-hander Mark Buehrle said he felt "too good" before a 5-0 loss to the Cardinals. He ended up surrendering five runs on six hits and two walks in throwing 70 pitches.
"That's where I wanted to get," Buehrle said of his pitch count, "but not in 2 1/3 innings.
"The ball was moving too much. I was falling behind in the count. Pretty much everything you're not supposed to do, I did," he said.
Buehrle signed a four-year, $58 million contract in December to add depth to the Marlins' rotation. He has a 9.95 ERA in two big-league exhibitions.
"That's a typical Buehrle spring training," said manager Ozzie Guillen, who knows Buehrle from their years together with the White Sox (2004-11). "I'm not worried about him. He knows what he's doing."
Cardinals: Ace Chris Carpenter (stiff neck) threw 30 fastballs off a mound for the first time in nearly two weeks. He said he felt better than he had expected and was happy with the session. If he feels well today, he could throw off the mound again Sunday or Monday, and pitch batting practice. The Cardinals hope to have a better idea by next week about when Carpenter would be ready for exhibition games.
Nationals: Manager Davey Johnson said right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, who strained his left hamstring fielding a grounder Thursday, will be out a couple of weeks.
PIRATES: Kevin Correia, the opening day starter last year, tossed four shutout innings against the Phillies, giving up only one hit in his best outing of the spring. "It was just a matter of trying to be a little more efficient," Correia said. "… I think my pitch count was a little higher than I wanted it to be in my previous outings in spring training. Today, I was a lot more efficient."
Royals: Catcher Salvador Perez will be out 12-14 weeks after having left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Twins: Right-hander Nick Blackburn had another impressive start, striking out three and allowing just one hit in four scoreless innings of a 3-1 loss to Baltimore. The right-hander, who is coming off an inconsistent, injury-slowed 7-10 season, has given up four hits and no runs through seven innings this spring.