Jon Niese’s bullpen audition not going well, but he may have hope for a playoff roster spot
Jon Niese has transitioned to the bullpen, realizing he may not have a role in the Mets starting rotation following the regular season.
For the second consecutive night, Niese appeared in relief against the Phillies, a major test he must pass in order to convince team brass he can handle a bullpen role, something he had done only once in his career before Tuesday night.
And if his performance on Wednesday is any indication, it doesn’t seem likely he’s doing a great job of convincing his manager to have faith in him as a reliever.
Niese entered with two on and two out in the fifth inning, and was assigned with retiring left-handed hitter Cody Asche to end the fifth inning.
He did not do that.
Instead, Asche singled home Odubel Herrera to pull the Phillies to within two runs of the Mets.
He retired Darnell Sweeney on a groundout to Daniel Murphy, ending his night.
So far, he’s been tasked with starting an inning in relief, going multiple innings, pitching in back-to-back games, getting a left-hander out, and entering with runners on base.
None of it has gone particularly smoothly for Niese as he hopes he can be a contributor for the club he’s been with since he was drafted by in 2005.
Niese has allowed a run on four hits in two innings of relief in these two games against the Phillies, allowing one of his two inherited runners to score.
Manager Terry Collins has talked a lot about Niese needing to discover a routine which helps him get ready and get ready quick as a reliever, finding a way to stay loose and active ahead of a potential assignment, and anticipating when he may be able to come in as part of his preparation. That’s the life of a reliever, and understandably, Niese probably hasn’t really discovered that comfort zone as of yet.
That doesn’t necessarily correlate with his performance, especially since he’s hardly proven to be particularly effective against left-handed hitters this season – they’ve hit .297/.335/.439 against him this season.
But Collins has to have faith Niese can come in and be a stabilizing force in relief for the club. It’s worth a look for sure, especially since these games only impact home field advantage against the Dodgers in the Division Series.
But if Dario Alvarez is back and healthy, he seems like a more favorable candidate over Niese simply because he has spent his entire professional career in the bullpen, and at least in the minor leagues, has shown an ability to get left-handed hitters out consistently.
But hope may not be lost for Niese, at least against the Dodgers.
Without Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles has a very lefty-heavy lineup, and he has very good numbers against Chase Utley in his career (he’s just 3-for-36 lifetime against Niese) and Adrian Gonzalez (he’s 0-for-11 lifetime against Niese).
Those numbers alone might get Niese on the roster, and if Steven Matz is not available for the Division Series, Niese might be the preference to start over Bartolo Colon for these match-ups alone.