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 07

Zack Wheeler, Frank Francisco Injury Updates

Zack Wheeler said today is the first time he felt exceptionally good since straining his right oblique.

WHEELER: Feeling better.

WHEELER: Feeling better.

“Today was the first day I felt 100 percent,’’ Wheeler said. “ Every day leading up to today it felt a little better. It was 100 percent today.’’

Wheeler said he threw all his pitches at about 75 effort, but “I let it out a few times.’’

The plan is for him to rest for two days before throwing another bullpen. Ideally, they’d like to get him in a game sometime next week, but it is dependent on how he responds from this.

Wheeler will open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas even if Johan Santana is not ready for Opening Day.

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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.”

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Feb 28

Mets Announce Tentative Timetable For Wheeler

If history taught us anything, it is to not rely on a Mets manager for an injury diagnosis.

So, forgive me if I don’t totally buy into Terry Collins’ declaration of Zack Wheeler’s right oblique strain “is not that bad.’’

Of course, somebody else’s injuries usually aren’t.

Wheeler already missed one start, and the Mets’ current plans have him missing at least one more. The thinking is he’ll have a bullpen session Tuesday and get in a game in three more days. Of course, that’s all predicated on Wheeler coming out of the bullpen with no tightness or pain.

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Feb 24

Collins Would Be Foolish To Rush Santana

Is Terry Collins serious? If he follows through on a reported plan with Johan Santana you can bet it will come back to bite the Mets. It can’t but come back to bite them.

The Mets pushed back Santana for nearly two weeks because he lacks the arm strength in his arm, yet, unbelievably, even with their history of handling injuries are trying to think of a way he’ll be ready for Opening Day, if not to start the opener at least the first time through the rotation.

COLLINS: Won't be smiling if Santana gets hurt.

COLLINS: Won’t be smiling if Santana gets hurt.

Just not smart.

Assuming Santana is back on the mound by March 15, it leaves him a little over two weeks to get ready.

The accepted spring training timetable for a starter is to take six starts to work his way up to 90 plus for a game. That way he’ll get roughly 30 innings.

Collins’ plan has Santana starting with 45 pitches and adding 15-pitch increments until he gets to at least 90 over four starts. That’s a forced workload for a young bulldog of a pitcher let alone for someone less than two years removed from shoulder surgery.

Collins took heat last summer for keeping Santana in for 134 pitches during his no-hitter. But, he generally received a pass because there were extenuating circumstances, such as the first no-hitter in franchise history and that Santana had already built up his arm by making two months worth of starts.

There will be no free pass this time should Collins push Santana and the left-hander comes away injured.

Just not a smart move.