Apr 06

Niese Must Grasp Role As No. 1 Starter

By definition, Jon Niese is correct, he is not a No. 1 pitcher, an ace if you will. However, in relation to his status on the Mets, he is the man.

There is no denying Niese’s importance, but his designation of being the leader of the staff should be emphasized more today against Miami than in the status of an Opening Day starter. After two victories to open the season, the Mets have dropped two in a row, and have not looked good in the process.

NIESE: Announcing his presence with authority.

NIESE: Announcing his presence with authority.

Today, the Mets need Niese to stop the losing. That’s the primary goal of a stopper. That’s what staff leaders do.

“As far as leading the staff, I really don’t want to fulfill that role,’’ Niese said. “Everybody, all the guys in the rotation, have something different to offer.

“So I’m willing to learn from them, and I’m sure they’re willing to learn from me. We all have a job to do. Each one of us has a different way of going about it.’’

I can’t buy for a second Niese doesn’t want that role or responsibility. He’s a competitor; you see that every time he pitches. Saying that gives the perception of him willing to be complacent with what he’s achieved, and his 13 career-high victories in not where he wants to peak.

Let’s give Niese the benefit of doubt and say it’s modesty or a reflection of his demeanor. He’s quiet, he’s modest, there doesn’t appear to be a brash bone in his body. But, he’s not a pushover on the mound who easily caves in to the hitter.

Niese wants that role, and manager Terry Collins indicated as much when he told him he would be the Opening Day starter almost a month ago.

“[Niese] said, `All right!’ That means he wanted it bad,’’ Collins recalled. “He got himself ready for it, for sure. He pitched a great game.’’

Niese held San Diego to two runs on four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. He also had two hits himself.

“I’m not going to lie,’’ Niese said. “The adrenaline was pumping.’’

Catcher John Buck said Niese was easy to catch as everything fell into place for him.

“He had a good two-seamer going. His cutter in was working well for him,’’ Buck said. “So he was spreading the plate really well. And then that curveball, obviously, is a weapon to have with two strikes.’’

No. 1 starters don’t want to leave games. They want to start what they finish. Niese has gone the distance, but knows there have been too many times when he exits with the game still in the balance. That has to stop this year, says Niese, in acknowledging how he must continue to grow.

“I think last year was kind of a year where I kind of hit that sixth inning and had 95 pitches and they kind of shut me down,’’ said Niese, who pleaded for an extra inning and finished with 101. “I think this year I want to be that guy who goes back out and finishes my starts.’’

That won’t happen if Niese hits 100 in the seventh. He needs to be more efficient with his pitches. Too often he’ll work deep into the count, throwing four or five pitches to a hitter.

One less pitch to a hitter could mean two more innings. And, in their minds, staff leaders can’t throw enough innings.

Apr 01

Niese Sparkles; Offense Rocks In Mets’ Opening Day Rout

How appropriate.

It was overcast for much of the day, but shortly after this afternoon’s 11-2 rout of the San Diego Padres, it started to rain on Citi Field. If there could be universal laws in baseball, is it isn’t supposed to rain on Opening Day and the home team has to win.

NIESE: Scintillating start. (AP)

NIESE: Scintillating start. (AP)

Let the Padres win Wednesday night and when they return to San Diego, but today belonged to the Mets, played as complete a game as possible while their crosstown rivals, the Yankees, lost to Boston.

With the victory the Mets improved their Opening Day record to a MLB best 34-18 (.654). It’s astounding considering their overall history.

THE PITCHING: Jon Niese was superb, going 6.2 innings and giving up two runs on four hits. He also collected two hits. Niese’s wife said she wears a special pair of blue panties when he pitches. Wash them and have them ready for the weekend. Niese said he didn’t feel any added pressure of starting on Opening Day, but admitted, “the adrenalin was pumping.’’ … Niese is now the de facto ace with Johan Santana gone. “He has stepped into a role where he leads the rotation,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

WRIGHT STREAK CONTINUES: Wright said he didn’t feel anything different when he was introduced as captain, but reiterated, “I’m very proud to represent this team.’’ With a third-inning single, Wright has hit in every Opening Day since his first in 2005. Overall, he is 13-for-36 (.361) in home openers. Wright also made several sparkling plays in the field and stole two bases.

OFFENSE TAKES OFF: Today marked the fifth time the Mets scored double-digit runs on Opening Day. … The Mets scored nine runs after two outs and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position. … Collin Cowgill hit is first career grand slam in the seventh inning. Only Todd Hundley previously hit a slam on Opening Day. … Cowgill, Marlon Byrd and John Buck combined to go 6-for-14 with five runs scored and seven RBI. “I’m just grateful for this opportunity and want to make the most of it,’’ Cowgill said. Byrd declined to speak to reporters after the game. … Ruben Tejada doubled home the Mets’ first run. “He told me he would be ready,’’ Collins said of Tejada’s dismal spring training.

BEST STORY: The best story of the day was reliever Scott Rice’s major league debut after 14 years in the minor leagues. He pitched one scoreless innings and struck out two. Buck saved the ball from the first strikeout by throwing it into the Mets’ dugout. Rice presented the ball to his father after the game. “Maybe this will hit me later,’’ Rice said.

METS MUSINGS: The Mets held their annual Welcome Home dinner at a Manhattan hotel. … Shaun Marcum could be activated from the disabled list to start this weekend against Miami. … Matt Harvey (3-5, 2.73) will start against left-hander Clayton Richard (14-14, 3.99) Wednesday night. The Mets play Thursday afternoon and will host Miami this weekend.

Mar 11

Jonathan Niese Sparkles Against Detroit

Jonathan Niese threw 4.2 scoreless innings this afternoon against the Tigers, begging the question: Why not just off call the charade with Johan Santana?

It is clear Santana won’t be ready for the start of the season, and the only possible result in rushing him is risk injury.

Terry Collins has already said Niese would replace Santana as the Opening Day starter and Jeremy Hefner will take his place on the roster if the veteran lefty isn’t ready.

The Mets are waiting for Santana to throw batting practice and in the bullpen before he gets in a game, and then, under normal circumstances make six exhibition starts until he stretches it 30 innings. Santana’s current timetable is to make four starts.

The Mets can’t deal Santana because of his $31 million contract, and their best value for him is for him to pitch as well as possible.

That begins with being healthy.

METS NOTES: Frank Francisco said he’s feeling fine after yesterday’s bullpen session. He said the next step is another bullpen in a day or two, “maybe,” he said. … Jenrry Mejia gave up one hit in a scoreless inning today against Detroit.

Mar 06

Jon Niese Tested Today

It’s not the pitching line, but the feel of his pitches this time of year.

“I felt good. My stuff was very good,” Jonathan Niese said after this afternoon’s 62-pitch outing against the Venezuelan WBC team.

“I am not used to that kind of workload (this early in spring training). But, that’s a good thing.”

NIESE: More work to do. (AP)

NIESE: More work to do. (AP)

Niese said getting his curveball over and mastering his change-up is what concerns him most. Both are feel pitches requiring time to master.

“I have to get my curveball over,” Niese said. “I couldn’t get my curve-ball over for strikes. My change-up is getting a lot better, but it’s not where I want. I need to build off this. Usually my change-up is always the last pitch. … I like where my arm strength is and I like how the ball is coming out of my hand.”

Niese called pitching to the Venezuelan team, which includes Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Gonzalez as “humbling.”

“They have a good lineup,” Niese said. “They made me work. I made a couple of mistakes and they made me pay for them.”

Continue reading

Feb 09

Ike Davis And Jon Niese Are My Indispensable Mets For 2013

Good afternoon folks. I hope you made it through the blizzard and safe today. I’m looking at almost two feet of snow. There’ve been power outages in the area and some places have nearly three feet.

I’m back on-line and looking at the Mets’ roster trying to think who might be the most important, or indispensable, players on the team.

DAVIS: Key figure in 2013

DAVIS: Key figure in 2013

When considering this, I do with the idea the Mets will not be a contender, but with a look into the future. I am looking at a starting pitcher and offensive player.

By process of elimination, I can’t choose anybody in the outfield because it is speculation as to who will be there. The names Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter are unproven so they can’t realistically be thought of as indispensible. My guess is we’ll see a lot of guys out there.

Although he’s considered the face of the Mets and by the time spring training is over could be named captain, I am also excluding David Wright. I believe Wright has already hit his ceiling, meaning he won’t eclipse his career highs in average (.325 in 2007), homers (33 in 2008), RBI (124 in 2008), on-base percentage (.416 in 2008) and OPS (.963 in 2007).

Wright will remain an important player for the duration of his contract, so I am looking for another bat and going with Ike Davis.

Continue reading