CINCINNATI -- Left-hander Jonathon Niese is headed to the bullpen for the final week of the regular season as the New York Mets begin to arrange their pitching staff for the National League Division Series.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Sunday that Niese approached him 10 days ago requesting to work in the bullpen to get acclimated if that might be his postseason role.
Colon will pitch Tuesday in Philadelphia, followed by Matz on Wednesday and Logan Verrett on Thursday in that series. Verrett takes Niese’s spot.
The Mets do not have a bona fide left-hander in their bullpen, so Niese could be useful in that role.
Dario Alvarez has a groin injury and has not resumed throwing in Port St. Lucie, Florida, according to Collins.
Sean Gilmartin, although a southpaw, is more of a multi-inning reliever. Gilmartin has reverse splits, with lefty batters hitting .264 and righty batters hitting .220 against him.
Meanwhile, Jerry Blevins, who twice fractured his left forearm this year, has not thrown a major league pitch since April, although he has started tossing a baseball at the Mets' complex in Florida.
Opposing lefty batters have a .285 average and righty batters have a .275 average against Niese this season.
“The one thing I like about him is that, certainly if they pinch hit, he does have the tools to get righties out, too,” Collins said.
Niese has appeared in one game in relief in the majors. He started the seventh inning in San Francisco the day before the All-Star break July 10, 2011 and proceeded to allow hits to two of the three batters he faced before getting pulled.
“It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing and I really didn’t prepare myself much for it,” Niese said.
Collins acknowledged it is more important to get Niese relief work during the last week of the regular season than Colon. After all, Colon likely would be working multiple innings rather than entering to face a specific batter.
Although Collins would only acknowledge deGrom, Syndergaard and Harvey as locked in as postseason starters, the manager all but lumped Matz into that group, too. Collins reiterated that Matz’s injury history and struggles rebounding for a few days after appearances do not make him a good choice to work in relief.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Collins said.
Collins suggested that Niese being selfless in expressing his willingness to work in relief 10 days ago is emblematic of an entire team that is placing the best interests of the organization first.
“The entire clubhouse was caught up in winning,” Collins said. “They weren’t caught up in their own stuff. They worried about doing what they thought they needed to do to help the club.”
Said Niese: “It’s one of those things where I wanted to do anything to help the team. As the season progressed there at the end, there was a need down there.”