Santana throwing on flat ground, no timetable for return

Toronto allowing lefty to follow his own throwing program

Santana throwing on flat ground, no timetable for return

Blue Jays left-hander Johan Santana has been throwing off flat ground, but the former All-Star still doesn't have a timetable to pitch off a mound.

Toronto has maintained all along that Santana will follow his own program. He hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2012, and his checkered past with injuries means the club will take every precaution with his health.

It seems almost impossible that Santana would be ready by Opening Day, making him an extreme long shot to crack the rotation. He could become a factor at some point in late April, however, if he shows enough improvement.

"It's just kind of [depends on] how it feels," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked when Santana might be ready. "He'll let those guys know when he's ready."

Santana isn't dealing with a specific injury, but over the past year he dealt with soreness in his shoulder, and also a torn Achilles tendon. He made a brief appearance in the Venezuelan Winter League, but is essentially starting his throwing program from scratch.

The Blue Jays are auditioning Daniel Norris and Marco Estrada for the final spot in the rotation. Right-hander Aaron Sanchez technically is being considered as well, but all signs point to him starting the year in a late-innings role out of the bullpen.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.