Apr 20

Niese Needs To Pick Up Mets

The Mets are now paying Jon Niese stopper money. Tonight he needs to earn it against San Francisco’s Barry Zito as the Mets seek to stabilize after losing three of their last four games.

After a surprisingly fast start, the Mets limp home with their rotation crushed, giving up 31 runs in the four games.

NIESE: Stopper

“We need Jon to give us a game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. So far, Niese has given the Mets two, winning both behind a nifty 2.13 ERA.

Niese will attempt to pick up the mess left by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey in the last two games, and the bullpen’s meltdown Sunday at Philadelphia.

The Mets have always liked the physical aspects of Niese’s game; his location, velocity and movement on his pitches. However, the more they see him the more they appreciate his poise and composure. He ‘s not afraid to challenge hitters, including when behind in the count. That’s how one becomes a stopper.

Apr 17

Seven Positive Signs For The Mets

Earlier today I posed the question if the Mets were for real. Ten games is not enough of a window to jump on the bandwagon, but it is big enough to sense that there’s something positive going on.

WRIGHT: Off to a good start. (AP)

1) David Wright is stroking the ball with authority. Even after missing several games he’s been consistently on, driving the ball to the opposite field which has always been a benchmark of success for him. He’s been swinging at good pitches and hasn’t been chasing the down-and-away junk. He also has been holding his ground when the pitchers have worked him inside.

2) They are 7-3, with all their wins in the division. They’ve won a series in Philadelphia and won last night in Atlanta, places which haven’t always been kind to them. I took a look at a sportsbook review and the odds on the Mets are getting better everyday. This is as positive a sign as any.

3) Johan Santana, who will work tonight, has given them two strong starts. A strong Santana give the Mets a sense of confidence and credibility. Now, if they’d only score some runs for him.

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Apr 07

Mets To Announce Jon Niese Contract

The Mets will make it official in a matter of minutes and announce the five-year, $25.5 extension for Jon Niese, who, if he lives up to expectations will make that a bargain.

NIESE: Gets new contract.

Premium left-handers are in high demand and Niese has already shown a high upside. Throw in two team option years and the deal could rise to $45.5 million.

The Mets have been targets for bad contractual decisions, but this is a sound move because it will enable them to avoid the arbitration and free-agency issues for the next five years.

All contracts represent a gamble, and any thing long term with a pitcher is such, but because of Niese’s age and upside, they are locking him in to a reasonable deal. This is nothing like the Oliver Perez fiasco.

Niese called the deal a blessing and a relief.

“It means a lot,’’ Niese said. “It’s a relief. It’s just a burden off my shoulders. It’s something I don’t have to think about when I go out and pitch. I can just go out there and pitch, have fun and help the team win.’’

Niese will make his season debut tomorrow afternoon against the Braves.

Apr 04

Good move in long-term deal with Niese

With Opening Day hours away, the Mets began the 2012 season on a positive note by agreeing to a contract with left-hander Jon Niese.

NIESE: Locked up for five years.

In agreeing to the five-year, $25.5 million deal – pending a physical – the Mets will avoid the arbitration and free-agent processes and locked up one of their most important young players.

With the Mets resolving their most stressing financial problem is reaching a settlement in the Madoff scandal, their next most important step is to achieve as much economic certainty as possible. That would be in reaching long-term obligations with their young talent.

They did it with David Wright and Jose Reyes several years ago. The next wave would be Niese, Ike Davis, and possibly Wright again.

Niese won a career-high 11game last year before it was cut short with a side injury. There’s no guarantee Niese will become the next Jerry Koosman, but his career is off to a good start and he’s caught the attention of others. Several teams have inquired into Niese and for good reason; he’s immensely talented and poised. And, hard throwing left-handers are a premium.

The Mets have taken deserved heat for their questionable decisions. They should also get credit for their good moves, and this is one.

Apr 02

Parnell sharp; Santana gets Opening nod.

Bobby Parnell, who had been uninspiring during his tenure with the Mets, has been scintillating this spring, enough where they could consider opening the season with him in the closer role if Frank Francisco is placed on the disabled list with a sore left knee.

PARNELL: Has had excellent spring.

While Parnell was throwing three scoreless innings at Atlanta in a spot start – because the Mets didn’t want Jon Niese to face the same team he’ll pitch against Sunday – Francisco was getting an MRI.

“Early in camp I felt a little sore in there and it went away,’’ Francisco told reporters today. “In the last three days, I felt soreness in there again, but that’s it. We’re going to take care of that. I did my workout and everything, and it felt fine, but they’re going to take a look at it.’’

 A MRI, followed by manager Terry Collins saying he was concerned about Francisco’s knee can’t be a good omen for the injury ravaged Mets.

Francisco, a Toronto castoff, was signed to a two-year, $12-million contract in the offseason. The Mets also signed another Blue Jays’ reliever, Jon Rauch, but he’s been ineffective this spring with a 7.94 ERA. Parnell, who struggled in the closer role last September, hasn’t given up a run in 12 1/3 innings during spring training.

Despite his success, I’m not so sure moving Parnell to the closer role is the way to go if Francisco’s injury is deemed short term. The Mets have bounced Parnell around in the past and he has not responded to the changing roles. Because he’s been pitching well I’d be reluctant to tinker with him.

I would reconsider that position if Francisco’s injury is determined to be long term.

Meanwhile, the Mets finally announced Johan Santana will be the Opening Day starter Thursday against the Braves. Santana would be followed in the rotation by R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese.