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Healthy Niese looks to lead young Mets staff

Jonathon Niese retired the first eight batters he faced in his Grapefruit League debut yesterday before hitting a wall. With two outs in the third, the Red Sox tagged him with three-straight hits before Daniel Nava worked a walk on Niese's 52nd and final pitch. Boston would go on to win the game 6-3.

"The arm felt great," Niese said. "Kinda ran out of gas at the end there and lost command. But it was good to get to 50 pitches."

In the context of the Mets' youth movement, the 28-year-old Niese is almost middle-aged. In September 2008, when he first broke in, Matt Harvey had just come off his first summer in the Cape Cod League, Jacob deGrom had been the starting third baseman at Stetson University, and Zack Wheeler had just given up high school basketball to spend his senior year focused on baseball.

Now, if Niese can stay healthy, he can play a major role in the Mets' turnaround, as there are higher expectations this season.

"I'm excited," Niese said. "Especially looking at all the talent we have. I came into camp healthy, I feel strong. The sky's the limit for us this year as far as the pitching staff goes. I know our hitting has gotten better. I'm really excited about it."

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