- Associated Press - Saturday, July 21, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Johan Santana is taking a break, whether he wants to or not.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a sprained right ankle, the latest setback for the fading New York Mets since the All-Star break.

Santana has struggled mightily since Reed Johnson of the Chicago Cubs stepped on his foot July 6 on a play at first base. The left-hander was hit hard for the third straight start Friday night in a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and manager Terry Collins said afterward the team was looking for a way to get some “energy” back in his arm.

Santana missed last season following major shoulder surgery. He is 6-7 with a 3.98 ERA in 19 starts covering 110 2-3 innings.

“We knew in spring training that there might be a time this summer when he has to get shut down,” Collins said. “Well, now is going to be that time.”

General manager Sandy Alderson said Santana probably won’t pitch again until at least Aug. 7, when the Mets return home from an 11-game road trip out West.

“Definitely, it’s tough. I didn’t want to go on the DL. I want to keep pitching and competing,” Santana said. “They decided it’s better for me to take some time off and that’s what we’re going to do.”

New York is also missing starter Dillon Gee, who had surgery last week on an artery in his pitching shoulder after a blood clot had formed there. Gee will be sidelined for at least a couple of months and there’s a good chance he’ll miss the rest of the season.

Miguel Batista (1-3), a 41-year-old journeyman who has pitched mostly in relief this season, started in Gee’s place Saturday. He lasted only three innings in an 8-5 loss to ex-Met Chris Capuano (10-5) and the Dodgers.

Right-hander Jeremy Hefner was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to help an overworked bullpen. The Mets will bring up reliever Elvin Ramirez on Sunday.

Santana became the third member of New York’s opening-day rotation to go on the disabled list. Mike Pelfrey had season-ending elbow surgery in May.

“Johan I think has exhibited the effects of 100 innings and a sore ankle the last couple of starts,” Alderson said. “We think that the ankle injury may have led to some general fatigue in his shoulder, specifically. And in light of the surgery and where he’s been and what he’s accomplished, we’ve gotten to the point where he probably needs to get that ankle right and get back to the point where he feels confident about pitching.”

Alderson said the Mets haven’t decided how to fill out their depleted rotation going forward. Santana’s next turn would have been Wednesday against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg.

“We’ll make a decision on the rotation in the next couple of days,” Alderson said. “We’re now filling two spots instead of one.”

Hefner, a starter at Buffalo, has made three starts for New York this season. Another option is prized prospect Matt Harvey, though the Mets have been cautious about rushing him up from Buffalo.

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