Feb 28

Jon Niese Injury Raises Questions

It was interesting to hear Jonathon Niese take responsibility for his setback, but his comments raised questions as to how the New York Mets handled his injury.

NIESE: Injury raises questions. (AP)

NIESE: Injury raises questions. (AP)

Niese’s MRI revealed scapula-muscle weakness in the back of his left shoulder.

How did this happen?

Niese missed two months last season with a rotator-cuff strain, but returned to pitch late in the year.

Before the offseason, I asked Niese his off-season plans and he said he would get a workout routine from the trainers and concentrate on strengthening his shoulder. Sounded reasonable.

Today, Niese told ESPN in Port St. Lucie he worked on the rotator cuff area, but neglected the area in the back part of the shoulder leading to an imbalance of strength and caused his shoulder blade to be tugged at an awkward angle.

Often with an arm injury a pitcher overcompensates, which leads to another problem.

“The MRI revealed that my shoulder this year is actually better than it was last year,’’ Niese said. “[Mets physician Dr. David Altchek] said everything was healed and everything was clean.

“It’s just the fact that there are little weak spots. I kind of blame that on myself. Last year, with it being the rotator cuff, this off-season that’s pretty much all I was working on. I neglected the other things. So everything was at an imbalance. That’s when I started having the shoulder-pinching issues and discomfort.’’

This leads to several questions:

* Was Niese instructed to work on that area of the shoulder and just didn’t? If so, why? Surely, he has to be smart enough not to ignore rehab instructions.

* Did the doctors not tell and show Niese how to work those muscles? One would think they would have.

* Was Niese rushed back too soon last season and developed bad habits that carried over to his off-season throwing? If so, it wouldn’t have been the first time a Met was rushed back.

* Are Niese’s mechanics the same as they were prior to the injury, and if so, why wasn’t this caught by pitching coach Dan Warthen? Everything is on tape, so it’s a wonder why it was missed if that’s the case.

* Niese said he would get a workout routine from a physical therapist, leading to speculation he wasn’t given that series of exercises. If so, why not?

The Mets have been frequently criticized for their handling of injuries. While it might be premature to make that accusation in this case, there is cause to wonder.

Feb 26

Bartolo Colon, Eric Young Held Out Of Practice With Tightness

On the day Jonathon Niese was sent to New York for a MRI on his sore left shoulder, the New York Mets had two other injuries Wednesday afternoon, but neither appear to be serious.

Bartolo Colon, scheduled to pitch in Thursday’s intrasquad game has tightness in his calf and spent much of the day riding the stationary bike to get loose.

Earlier in the day, it was revealed Colon was in line to be the No. 2 starter in the rotation. That has not changed. Undoubtedly, Colon will not pitch tomorrow and his first exhibition start has not been announced.

Also, outfielder Eric Young was held out of workouts with tightness in his side. Manager Terry Collins said he expects Young to play this weekend.


Feb 26

Jon Niese To Get MRI On Shoulder

Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be a normal New York Mets spring training without an injury – specifically to a pitcher.

Jonathon Niese is the latest and was sent to New York today for a MRI after complaining of pain in his left shoulder.



“I wanted to keep it quiet,’’ Niese told reporters in Port St. Lucie, ironically just two days after manager Terry Collins said he wants his players to disclose injuries. “It’s just a precautionary thing to make sure it’s not worse from last year. I just want peace of mind.’’

Specifically, Niese said his arm felt “dead,’’ which is a common occurrence during spring training and often stems from throwing too much too early.

Niese was in Port St. Lucie earlier than required to be, and there’s no telling how much he threw then, or during the off-season.

Niese, after laboring through two starts in freezing weather in Minnesota and Colorado last season – both games should have been rescheduled – later complained of stiffness in his back and trouble getting loose.

Eventually, Niese was placed on the disabled list, June 21, with a partial tear in his rotator cuff, and did not come back until Aug. 11.

Collins, speaking to reporters in Port St. Lucie, said the pain is in the triceps, which is a different part of the arm. The pain surfaced while Niese was throwing his second round of 20 pitches of batting practice Tuesday.

“Batting practice started and he felt fine,’’ Collins said. “And then he threw his second 20 pitches the other day. He just said at the end of it, ‘Geez, my arm’s just dead. Like, it’s dead.’ … It’s a precaution right now, but any time you’re sending someone for an MRI, obviously there’s going to be a concern until you get the reading back.

“He just said he’s got a little discomfort in there. So we’re going to go have it looked at.’’

Niese, 27, in the midst of a five-year, $25.5 million contract, has been scheduled to be the Opening Day starter, March 31, against Washington, at Citi Field.

ON DECK:  Sandy Alderson on shortstop situation

Feb 23

Terry Collins Announces Exhibition Starting Pitchers

New York Mets manager Terry Collins announced his rotation for the first five exhibition games Sunday morning.

Rafael Montero will get the ball for the exhibition opener this Friday against Washington at Tradition Field.

He will be followed by fifth-starter candidate John Lannan, March 1 against Miami; fifth-starter possibility Daisuke Matsuzaka, March 2 against St. Louis, at Jupiter; Noah Syndergaard, March 3 against Atlanta, at Orlando; Jonathon Niese, March 4 against Houston in Port St. Lucie.

Presumably, Zack Wheeler, who’ll throw batting practice today, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon will be next in line, but the order hasn’t been determined.

Relievers were not announced.

For the first game, the starters normally get two innings or roughly 30 pitches. The objective is to build them up to seven innings and 100 pitches.

Collins already said he is leaning towards Niese as his Opening Day starter against the Nationals.

It is unlikely Montero, who went 12-7 with a 2.78 ERA last year in 27 starts at Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas, will make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training.

ON DECK:  Could Matt Harvey Be A High Maintenance Super Nova?


Feb 16

Five Mets On The Hot Seat

We’re still a long way from Jonathon Niese’s first pitch of the 2014 season against Washington, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some New York Mets on the hot seat, broiling under the glare of expectations.

Every spring in every camp there are several players on a short-patience rope and the Mets are no exception. In my mind, there are five facing a make-or-break season, beginning with Niese:

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

GRANDERSON: Has pressure.

Jonathon Niese: Will it ever happen for him? He was signed to a multi-year extension because he was young, left-handed and could throw hard. However, he’s never won more than 13 games in a season and has sustained a myriad of injuries, including shoulder problems last season. At 29, there’s still time, but could one of the young prospects prompt the Mets to shop him?

Ike Davis: No Mets “question list,’’ doesn’t have his name. It is last-chance time for the former hot prospect. After 32 homers in 2012, that’s the plateau the club is seeking. The Mets would take less, say 25, if his RBI production and on-base percentage were high and his strikeouts substantially cut. He either hits this year or he’s gone.

Ruben Tejada: The Mets toyed with signing Stephen Drew, but were sold on the potential of the younger and cheaper Tejada after his commitment at a Michigan fitness camp. The Mets are pointing to 2015 and Matt Harvey’s return to when they can realistically contend, and they won’t be able to do that with a hole at shortstop.

Curtis Granderson: Signed a four-year deal for big money in the hope of providing power in the outfield. I have two words: Jason Bay. Fans are smart enough to realize he won’t hit for the power he did at Yankee Stadium, but they won’t accept Bay-like numbers. Granderson represents the Mets’ promise  to improve and needs to live up to those expectations.

Chris Young: He’s probably gone after this season, but he’ll start the year with a bulls-eye on his back. With his recent numbers it is incomprehensible for him to get a $7.25 million contract. He must produce for his own peace of mind in shutting up the boos.