Just a few weeks ago, New York Mets starting pitcher Jon Niese was flown back to cold and frigid New York from beautiful, sunny Florida due to an issue with his left shoulder. As is the case with any pitcher having discomfort anywhere near an arm, teams take precautions. Described to the Mets manager as a “dead” arm, Niese’s soreness raised even more concerns. After negative results, Niese’s progression was slowed a bit, but today, he made his first start this spring.
For veteran pitchers, the first couple of spring starts don’t mean much more than building strength and stamina, and working on their pitches; allowing hits and giving up runs is never a concern until later in the spring. Niese wasn’t too impressive today and had his struggles, but in the end, it was a Spring Training start that I am sure he was thrilled to make after the early scare. Niese went two innings allowing four runs on six hits and walked two.
With the injury to Matt Harvey, Niese was penciled in to be the Opening Day starter until his shoulder discomfort. If his progression continues the way it should, providing nothing else happens, he should still get the chance to start on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals on Mar. 31. Last season, Niese was 8-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 24 starts, but had an appearance on the disabled list after he partially tore his left rotator cuff.
The Mets are starting to take shape with three weeks remaining in Spring Training. John Lannan, who was potentially going to be the Mets’ fifth starter, may be relegated to the bullpen after the roster moves that were made. Lannan would be the second left-handed pitcher in the Mets’ bullpen, along with Scott Rice. It isn’t clear yet who will take the final spot in the rotation, but it would almost be safe to say it will be Daisuke Matsuzaka.