Jon Niese expects to pitch again on Sunday and then make two more spring training starts on normal rest, positioning him to pitch Opening Day against the Padres if Johan Santana isn’t ready.

“Obviously we want Johan to be there,” Niese said yesterday after pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in the Mets’ 11-0 exhibition victory over the Tigers. “But I would be happy to fill his shoes if he’s not available.”

Santana could be in position to throw from a mound today, but is setting his own schedule, according to the club, so it was unclear yesterday whether that session would transpire. The lefty still is awaiting his Grapefruit League debut as he attempts to strengthen his left shoulder. Santana took batting practice at the Mets complex yesterday, but didn’t speak to reporters.

With it unlikely Santana will be ready for the opener, Niese would move to the head of the rotation with Jeremy Hefner in position to claim the No. 5 spot.

Niese allowed a hit and walked four batters as he attempted to refine his secondary pitches.

Manager Terry Collins said Niese is the logical choice for the opener if Santana can’t pitch.

“[Niese] deserves that opportunity this year,” Collins said. “He’s reached that point where I think you’re going to look up at the end of the year and I think this guy can be one of the top pitchers in the game.”