Prior to the 2012 season, the Mets locked up Jonathon Niese to a five year extension worth about $25.5 million dollars. For the promising young lefty, the deal was viewed as a true win for both the pitcher and the franchise. He did not disappoint after signing the deal, having his best season to date, posting a 3.40 ERA in 190.1 innings pitched, compiling 13 wins in 2012.
The Mets looked for more of the same in 2013, seeing Niese as the number three starter behind veteran Johan Santana and young gun Matt Harvey. The rotation did not last long as Santana was injured again during Spring Training, leaving a void in the number one slot in the rotation. The club did not want the burden to fall on the young Harvey, and instead gave that duty to Niese.
Niese was given the ball on opening day, and actually pitched like an ace. He shut down the San Diego Padres and gave the Mets yet another win on Opening Day. Harvey followed with a brilliant performance of his own, showing he could be the ace of the staff too. The top of the rotation appeared to be set. With Niese and Harvey at one and two, the pitching staff had loads of promise. However as the year has gone on, one has established himself as an ace, the other has been inconsistent and had to battle injury. The latter is Niese.
Niese had a pretty solid April, posting a 3.31 ERA in his six starts in April, winning two games and pitching 32.2 innings. After April, Niese’s season has been up and down, with a lot more of the down. In the month of May his ERA was 5.65, and in two starts he did not go five innings. There were two starts where he went at least seven, however. You never knew what you were going to get from Niese.
In June he looked to heat up with the weather. In the so called city of “Hot Lanta”, Niese tried to follow the brilliance of the famous Harvey-Wheeler doubleheader. Early in his start against the Braves he was hit, and then to add insult, he left the game due to an apparent arm injury. It was later discovered that it was a partially torn rotator cuff, that could need season-ending surgery. Manager Terry Collins called it “normal wear and tear” and Niese would avoid surgery, but would need a DL and rehab stint before coming back to the mound.
After almost two months on the shelf, Niese came back to face the Diamondbacks this past Sunday, earning the win in another inconsistent start. He did go six and punchout five, including two critical strikeouts with the Mets up one, but he also allowed four runs, including a three run homer.
While Niese should get a pass being it was his first Major League start in quite some time, he needs to step up and be a rock at the middle of the rotation. A majority of the Mets young pitching prospects are right handed. Whether it be Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero or Zack Wheeler, the guys at the big league level or near it are all right handed. Except Jon Niese.
With a successful Niese, the Mets rotation can give the opponent so many different looks in one series. Niese can solidify this rotation if he can pitch like he did in 2012. If he can be the solid pitcher he’s been in the past, the Mets could have their own version of Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine. This time, the Mets could be the ones haunting the National League East.