"It was tough. I wanted to elevate a fastball right there and then it kind of, it didn't slip out of my hands but it kind of ran in on him. Obviously no intent but I just felt bad," Niese said. "It's every pitcher and every hitter's worst nightmare. I hope he's OK."
With the Mets up 1-0 and two outs in the sixth, Niese hit Heyward in the right jaw with a 90 mph fastball. Heyward immediately went down and was attended to by his manager and training staff.
Niese stayed near home plate with a concerned look on his face as Heyward lay there. After a few minutes, Heyward walked off the field mostly under his own power as a trainer held his arm.
Heyward was examined by the Mets doctors, and then was transported to a hospital for an X-ray and further evaluation.
"I felt horrible. Sometimes this game can be pretty dangerous," Niese said. "One minute you're playing, the next you're down."
Said Mets catcher John Buck: "Scary, to be honest. You don't ever want to hit anyone in the head. I saw him spitting up blood, that was even scarier."
Niese said it wasn't hard for him to get back on the mound. Although he still felt terrible about what had happened, he wasn't the same pitcher once the game resumed.
After surrendering just two hits through his first 78 pitches, Niese gave up two hits in his next three pitches, the latter an RBI single by Freddie Freeman that tied the game at 1-1.
In the seventh, he loaded the bases with two outs before striking out Jordan Schafer to end the frame. Niese gave up five hits and struck out nine over seven innings in a no-decision.
Mets manager Terry Collins said he checked with Niese to make sure he was OK to continue after hitting Heyward.
"He said he was OK. Certainly in the instance when he got back on the mound he knew he had a job to do. I asked him, 'Do you let that bother you?' He said 'No, I got back out there and I had to go pitch,'" Collins said. "But I’m sure you can’t help but wonder. Hopefully the guy’s OK."
Wednesday marked Niese's third start since returning from his partially torn rotator cuff that landed him on the disabled list, and he's pitched well since then. Niese has lasted at least six innings in each of the starts, and has a 2.70 ERA in that stretch.
"Shoulder feels great. Feels good to be back to 100 percent where I'm not feeling sore, knock on wood, after each start," Niese said. "It just feels in between starts I can actually get some work in. With that, it's a lot easier to execute pitches with a healthy shoulder."