Mets' Niese struggles against Venezuela
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Mets manager Terry Collins said he expects Johan Santana to pitch in a game in about a week and still could be on track to be New York's opening-day starter.
If not, Jonathon Niese would be honored to step in.
Niese, like any other starting pitcher, said he would love a chance to pitch in a season opener, but he has plenty to do before getting to that point.
The left-hander struggled against an All-Star lineup Wednesday as the Venezuelan national team roughed him up for six hits and four runs en route to a 14-10 win in its final tuneup for the World Baseball Classic.
"I have a lot of work to do, but in the bullpens I've been feeling really good so I just have to incorporate that with the adrenaline of a game situation," Niese said.
Niese gave up an RBI double to Carlos Gonzalez in the first and was replaced after giving up a second run on a walk and two hits in the third inning. Two more runs scored after his exit. He walked two and struck out one in 2 1-3 innings.
Miguel Cabrera homered twice for Venezuela's starting lineup that featured five 2012 All-Stars at the top of the order. Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera, Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Gonzalez combined for 10 hits. Cabrera connected in the fourth and fifth innings.
"That's a really good lineup all the way down," Niese said. "They made me throw a lot of pitches, they fouled off a lot of pitches and put together a lot of great at-bats. . I thought I executed some good ones, but I didn't execute a few and they made me pay for them. As far as my stuff, I thought I had good enough to throw three or four scoreless innings, but obviously they battled a lot."
Despite the numbers, Collins said Niese "made some real good pitches" against a tough lineup.
Perhaps more pleasing to Collins, though, was seeing Santana take another step forward in a light bullpen before the game. It was the second time on a mound for the ace since Feb. 19, after which his workload was backed down over concerns his arm strength wasn't where it needed to be.
"He's scheduled to get on the mound (in a game) in about seven days, and I think he's going to make that," Collin said. "All signs are pointing to him being ready. All signs are pointing that his arm is getting the strength it needs. He's happy with the way he feels, he's happy with the way he's throwing, so it's a major step forward for us."
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