Jon Niese will make his first start for the New York Mets in nearly two months this afternoon today in Phoenix. It is arguably one of the most important starts by a Met starter this season.
Those made by Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler generated more excitement, but for future planning, this is hugely important because it dictates their off-season objectives.
Niese lasted just 3.1 innings in his last start, June 20, at Atlanta, after which it was discovered he had a partially-torn rotator cuff. He went on the disabled list two days later. Niese passed all the medical tests, so it is assumed he’s good to go.
The Mets need to test Niese with kid gloves for the remainder of the season, and figuring no further complications it would streamline the Mets’ off-season shopping list.
If Niese is reinjured, don’t expect an early return next year, and assume they will attempt to add another starter this winter. They could go again with Jeremy Hefner, who has hit the skids since the All-Star break, or they could add another solution like Shaun Marcum.
Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.
Niese gave up three runs on eight hits in that start against the Braves, with five strikeouts and no walks. The most important number is where he landed on the pain meter, which was pretty high.
With Niese’s return to the rotation, the Mets will continue with a six-man starter, which under these circumstances is a prudent move for several reasons: 1) it protects Niese; 2) it lengthens the time between Hefner starts; and 3) it allows the Mets to reduce the starts, and thereby innings, of Harvey and Wheeler.
Most importantly, it will give the Mets an understanding of where Niese stands physically and their off-season needs while protecting him. That’s their most important pitching objective for now, even more than reducing Harvey’s and Wheeler’s innings.
Nobody knows whether the Mets will need to reduce Harvey and Wheeler next season, but assuming they will, this experience can only help them in developing a between-starts routine.
In four games against Arizona, Niese is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA, including an 11-5 loss last July. However, those numbers aren’t as important as the simple fact Niese is starting another game this season.
For those thinking the Mets have nothing to play for or learn the remainder of the season, guess again.
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