Michael Baron, Contributor
Jon Niese had his best start for the Mets this season, tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout on Tuesday.
“We had huge expectations at the beginning of the season for Jon Niese,” Terry Collins said after the game. “He went through a little bit of an injury issue, but he’s back and he’s healthy and it really picks us up.”
Niese is now 6-6 in 18 starts and has lowered his ERA to 3.69. He has a 1.93 ERA, with six walks and 28 strikeouts, in four starts since returning from the disabled list with a partial tear of his rotator cuff.
“Getting that news from the doctor telling me I have a partial tear, it was tough going through the rehab,” Niese said. “I tried to work as hard as I could to get back as quick as I could. It’s kind of rewarding to know I’m 100 percent now and I’m seeing some good results.”
This resurgence is incredibly important with respect to Sandy Alderson’s plan, especially now that there’s so much uncertainty with Matt Harvey over the next full year…
Niese was erratic with inconsistent arm slots before going on disabled list. He wasn’t mixing his cutter and curveball well, and he was getting knocked around as a result. It’s clear his shoulder injury played a role in those struggles; and the pain could have certainly altered the way he was attacking hitters. Now, he’s able to get over the top more, which is giving him more downward movement on his curveball, which is serving to off-set his hard cutter inside on righties.
Last April, Sandy signed Niese to a long-term extension and was more or less banking on his ability to be the pitcher was on display in the second half of last season and over the last month: a lefty who throws hard, has two dynamic off-speed weapons and who has complete command. The regression and injury earlier this season raised huge concerns over who Niese really was as a pitcher.
Over his last four starts, he has looked once again like the pitcher the Mets need, and a guy who can easily become one of the best back-end pitchers in the game behind the young guns in Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Sure, it’s only four good starts in one month of this season, but these four starts are very reminiscent of the Niese that Alderson signed to a long-term deal.