Jon Niese is scheduled to have his second MRI exam of the spring today, and with Opening Day two weeks away it’s doubtful he’ll make his scheduled start.
Niese got a late start this spring because of shoulder soreness. He pitched two inning in a Grapefruit League game on March 11th and didn’t appear sharp. His fastball topped out at 89 mph, but manager Terry Collins didn’t seem too worried.
Sunday, Niese lasted two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals before leaving with a sore left elbow. In a total of four innings this spring, he has allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out just one batter.
While both Niese and the Mets have downplayed the severity of the injury, it’s hard not to be concerned. He missed seven weeks last season with a partial tear of his rotator cuff, and Niese has only come close to the 200 inning mark once in his professional career.
See my New York Mets’ starting rotation preview article at Hot Stove Baseball.
This is just another reminder of the fragility of pitchers. This weekend, the Arizona Diamondbacks learned that they’d probably be without ace starter Patrick Corbin this season. The Atlanta Braves should find out today if Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will need season-ending Tommy John surgery. And of course the only reason that Niese was in line for the Opening Day assignment this year was that Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery last October.
As excited as we can get about a pitching rotation with Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in it sometime in 2015, a lot of things can keep it from happening.
We’ll probably see some discussion of who will start for the Mets on Opening Day in place of Niese over the next few days, but it really doesn’t matter to me if Collins chooses Wheeler, Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee. It’s one game, and I’ll only be watching it on tv (perhaps time-shifted.)
Of more interest is whether Niese’s injury opens op a better chance for Jenrry Mejia. During the final days of the Jerry Manuel era, the Mets made a mess of Mejia by shuffling him between the starting rotation and bullpen and not trusting him enough to use in pressure situations. Mejia got hurt and never really recovered his top prospect status.
It seemed like history was starting to repeate itself here, but maybe Mejia can seize this opportunity to force himself back into the center of the Mets’ plans or boost his trade value enough to get a fresh start somewhere else while helping the Mets to address other needs. (Or John Lannan could win the job thanks to Collins’ love for proven veterans. You never can tell.)
Case in point:
The Mets have one, potentially two openings in the starting rotation, but they’d rather shift one of their top prospects to the bullpen than give him a chance to start in the major leagues.
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