NEW YORK -- Jonathon Niese feels fine after getting struck with a first-inning line drive in the love handle on his left side Friday. So the southpaw wants to come back early and get two more starts before the All-Star break. And that appears to be bad news for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who could now end up in the bullpen without making another start.
New York Mets
Niese insisted to Terry Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez that he was fine and wanted to remain in the game. But Ramirez would not even permit Niese to throw a warm-up pitch, concerned that if Niese had suffered a fractured rib, he could end up puncturing a lung.
X-rays ended up being negative and Niese ultimately was diagnosed with a bruise.
Ramirez, in denying Niese’s plea, even brought up a five-year-old incident that predated Collins. During Niese’s rookie season, he was allowed to throw a warm-up with the trainer visiting on Aug. 5, 2009. Niese crumpled to the ground in pain with a complete tear of a hamstring tendon.
That incident contributed to assistant trainer Mike Herbst getting reassigned from the major league staff to rehab duty at the Mets’ Port St. Lucie, Fla., complex.
“There’s not much to say other than I’m fine. I didn’t want to be taken out,” Niese said postgame Friday. “I just felt like I was cheated there a little bit.”
Niese said he was “100 percent” confident during Ramirez’s visit that he was fine.
“I knew it was just a bruise. It kind of went away there,” he said. “I wanted to stay in there.”
Niese continued, referring to Ramirez: “He’s doing his job. He really didn’t know the extent of the injury. In my past, with the hamstring, he just didn’t want to take a chance of it tightening up and pulling something.”
The one positive byproduct: Although Collins said it had not yet been discussed, Niese wants his next start to come Monday or Tuesday, rather than wait for his official next rotation turn Wednesday.
Since Niese threw only 12 pitches, that seems more than feasible.
And that would mean the Mets could immediately reassign Matsuzaka to the bullpen without making another start. Dillon Gee should be ready to return from the disabled list Wednesday, which is when Niese’s official next turn would be. So Niese can merely jump into Matsuzaka’s slot a day or two earlier.
If that materialized, the rotation leading into the All-Star break could be:
Saturday: Bartolo Colon
Sunday: Zack Wheeler
Monday: Niese/Jacob deGrom
July 11: Wheeler
July 12: Niese/deGrom
July 13: deGrom/Niese
“I’m going to try to talk them into going out earlier,” Niese said. “I only threw 12 pitches.”