Last night, Jon Niese cruised through seven innings in a cold, windy and rainy game in Philadelphia. Niese picked up his second victory and dropped his ERA to 2.20. In his career against the Phillies, Niese is 7-6 in 16 starts with a 3.00 ERA. For a man who has been with the Mets for a while, and one who pitched opening day last night, Niese has been lost in the fray.
All the talk has been about Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and the incoming crop of young pitching. That doesn’t include the signing of Bartolo Colon and the emergence of Dillon Gee as a top pitcher in the National League.
So for Niese, 2014 was all about re-establishing himself as a mainstay in the Mets rotation. When spring time rolled around, the problems arrived. A number of injuries kept Niese from pitching for most of the spring. The injuries required Niese to miss his first start of the season and questions arose about his ability to bounce back and into form.
He answered those questions without a problem and has looked good in the process. Niese has slid into a nice slot into the rotation between Gee and Colon and settled in there.
It’s not that Niese isn’t good enough to be the ace of a rotation, he is. But it’s more that the pressure required to be the ace of this rotation is more suited for a guy like Matt Harvey. Niese is a quiet guy. He likes to go out there, pitch well and move on to the next start. Things like #HarveyDay or #DiaDeMejia are not part of the Niese makeup. He is more comfortable in his current role.
There has been a long road to this point. His first few seasons with the Mets were all about growth and development. He added and worked on his change-up and his cutter, two pitches that are key to his success. Now in the past two seasons, Niese has been struggling with staying healthy, pitching 200 innings and finding his spot within this rotation.
With the comfort of having a set spot in the rotation, the pressure of having to be “the guy” can be off Niese and he can just go and pitch. To this point, that’s what he has done. Hopefully this can be another building block for Niese. If he can finally get over the hump and pitch 200 innings this season, the Mets have a really good #3/#4 starter.
Mets fans would sign up for their #3/#4 starter to pitch 200 innings, win 13-16 games and have a sub 4.00 ERA. Add that to Harvey, Wheeler, Gee, Mejia, Colon, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and the Mets have themselves one of the best, if not the best rotation in the National League.
Since he’s been brought up, Jon Niese has been an interesting pitcher. From bouncing around the rotation to injuries risks to adding secondary pitches to his repertoire, Niese hasn’t had the chance to settle in to a spot. Now is that time. Going forward, Niese has to build on his good start to the year and settle in to his spot into the rotation. Once that happen, the future of the Mets pitching will get even better.