Johan Santana’s shoulder rehab took a step in the right direction Wednesday when the Mets’ starter took part in a simulated game. Although Santana didn’t actually “throw” a baseball, he did prepare himself for game situations.

While today’s simulation software accurately mimics Major League games, the Mets recently declined to extend their contract with a cutting-edge computer graphics company for financial reasons, and instead dusted off their old system built by Atari in 1978.

The computer-generated Santana threw six innings, and allowed five runs on nine hits. He also had an injury scare in the fourth inning when a ball off the bat of Phillies’ slugger Greg Luzinski ricocheted off his ankle.

“I looked good out there, really made me want to get back on the hill,” Santana said. “I still can’t really lift my left arm, but by the time Spring Training rolls around, I should be able to raise it over my head.”

Mets coaches were on hand to watch Santana don a virtual reality helmet and get his first taste of action since his surgery.

“Johan got me excited for the season,” said Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen. “He K’d Mike Schmidt on four pitches. Tell me that isn’t impressive!”

Santana is scheduled to throw another simulated game against the Dale Murphy-led Braves on Saturday. After that he will attempt to throw off a softball mound, and if all goes well, pitch against Port St. Lucie’s Little League team next week.

The Mets hope to have Santana ready to pitch in a Major League game sometime before an All-Star break; they just aren’t sure which year.