Niese looks strong but bullpen falters late

The New York Mets continued their Spring struggles on Saturday afternoon as they fell to an Atlanta Braves split squad by a score of 3-2.


Not that it matters or anything, but the #Mets are 0-7-1 in their past eight Grapefruit League games.
@AdamRubinESPN
Adam Rubin

The lone bright spot was that after watching Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana struggle in their latest outings, Jonathon Niese tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings and saw his Grapefruit League ERA drop to 2.61.

With the Mets up by one in the 8th inning, Ramon Ramirez gave up a go ahead 2-run double to David Ross, which would put Atlanta ahead for good.  After exiting the game, the 25-year-old lefty mentioned that he didn’t use his cutter as much as he wanted and was still getting used to working with catcher Lucas May (click here to listen).

Photo by Michael G. Baron

He also said that his change-up still feels a little flat and he would like to have a little more sinking/tailing movement to it.  When asked by Kevin Burkhardt of SNY what he thought he needed to do to take his game to the next level, Niese quickly replied with four keys:

(1) Stay consistent (2) Pound the zone (3) Use all my pitches (4) Keep hitters off balance

This is a big year for Niese as he looks to build on two promising seasons that have yielded somewhat average results.

It is important to remember that #49 actually won 8 games prior to the All-Star break and had a 3.67 heading into July.  If not for a rough August (7.15 ERA) that was capped off with his worst start of the season against the Phillies (4 IP, 10 hits, 8 ER), Niese would have finished the season with an ERA under 4.  Instead, his 4.40 earned run average in 2012 has some people questioning if he can be a ‘top half of the rotation’ starter.  2012 will go a long way towards answering that question.

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