Niese came out strong on Friday pitching 3.2 scoreless innings on three hits. He earned an impressive 2.84 ERA with three strikeouts and just one walk.
After retiring the first eight batters he faced, the Red Sox tagged Niese for three consecutive hits and ended his outing with a walk. However, in only his second start of spring training, reaching the 50-pitch mark is an accomplishment.
It was a big jump from his first start when he tallied a 6.75 ERA allowing three hits, two runs and only one strikeout.
The first start wasn’t all that bad though. Niese is yet to give up a homerun and threw 52 pitches, more than any of the other Mets starters to date.
He also has a very low walk count, a big weak spot for the Mets, only walking one batter in each of his appearances so far.
Last year, Niese’s strikeout to walks ratio was 138:45 through 30 games (an average of 1.5 walks per game).
The 28-year-old seems to have re-gained his confidence after suffering from a flared up shoulder and a hyper-extended elbow that placed him on the disabled list for the first month of the 2014 season and sidelined him prior to the All-Star break for a little over two weeks.
Niese admitted to coming back too early to play on April 6 and should have sat out longer to allow himself more time to heal.
The injury, that caused a sharp pain in his throwing shoulder, explained Niese’s inconsistency on the mound and the drop in his fastball velocity. It fell from 90 mph to a less-effective 88-89 mph.
He managed to pitch through the injury and finished the season tying his career-low 3.40 ERA through 187 2/3 innings and went 9-11.
Niese has been injury prone throughout his seven-year career and has not pitched a 200-inning season to date.
When healthy, he has the potential for a strong ERA, great command and low walk counts.
His arm slot is higher and his arm speed is better. With an improved arm angle from last season, he can now spend the spring working on his cutter and curveball.
Harvey is coming off of Tommy John surgery, Wheeler requires more fine-tuning and deGrom only has one year of Major League experience under his belt so his ceiling is still uncertain.
Since 2010, Niese has been the most consistent figure on the squad and longest-tenured member of the rotation. He has started at least 24 times in each of the last five seasons since becoming a starter and started 30 games in three of those seasons.
Talks of trading Niece were quickly shot down since he’s the sole lefty-starter on the team and, if he can stay healthy, he could be of high value to a potential Mets turnaround season.