PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Ten days after Jonathon Niese was forced to leave a Grapefruit League game with elbow discomfort, the southpaw was back in a game Thursday. And after tossing 4 1/3 solid innings against St. Louis Cardinals A-ball players on a back field, Niese suggested his health woes appear behind him.
Niese had received a cortisone injection last Monday to address inflammation in the elbow.
He threw 57 pitches in a scoreless effort Thursday, surrendering three hits and a walk and striking out three. He comfortably sat at 87-89 mph and topped out at 92 mph with his fastball.
Niese expects to repeat the minor league activity in five days, upping his workload to 75 pitches. He then would fly to New York in advance of his expected activation from the disabled list for an April 6 start against the Cincinnati Reds.
"There was kind of a little bit of worry, just because I haven't pitched in a game where it didn't hurt. And today it felt amazing," Niese said. "It felt like I felt at the end of last year."
Bartolo Colon also worked on a back field Thursday, but that was simply intended to have him avoid the Washington Nationals, whom he faces next week for real. Colon allowed three runs (two earned), five hits and a walk in four innings while dealing with shoddy fielding behind him.
As for his emotions staying behind in Port St. Lucie with the Mets about to leave for Montreal on the eve of the season, Niese said: "It is what it is. That comes with being on the DL. Fortunately, it's not going to be for that long. Knock on wood, if everything goes well on Tuesday, then I should meet the team on Wednesday in New York."
He described spring training as a "roller coaster" of emotions.
"It started off pretty s-----," Niese said. "And it got a lot better today. I was pretty low there for a while at the beginning. And then it got even lower when the elbow started flaring up. And then it was real concerning. But after today, or after the last week, it's been great. And today was a huge step because I felt amazing."