Jon Niese hasn’t pitched like someone deserving of a chance in the starting rotation.
But the Mets are nearing desperation mode — if they aren’t already there — and could use something of a shakeup.
Logan Verrett was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday after a horrific start Friday against the Padres in which he allowed eight runs and six hits in 2 2⁄3 innings, which resulted in manager Terry Collins’ decision to have Niese start on Wednesday in Arizona.
The Diamondbacks pounded Niese on Thursday, tagging him for six runs in one inning of relief.
That outing wasn’t an isolated incident. Niese pitched so poorly in Pittsburgh — 4.91 ERA, 1.545 WHIP — that he was demoted to the bullpen after 18 starts. Still, the Mets traded Antonio Bastardo before the non-waiver deadline to re-acquire him.
“I didn’t want to lose that rotation spot over there, but I guess if it teaches me anything, it’s not to pitch poorly in the rotation anymore,” Niese said. “I’d rather be in the rotation. That’s where my heart is. I look forward to giving it my best in the rotation, and hopefully I can stick there.”
Recent performances don’t suggest that Niese will bounce back, but he said a nagging knee injury was difficult to deal with while pitching out of the bullpen.
He said he has a cartilage issue in his left knee, a problem that he’s been trying to work with since midway through last season.
Niese said regular rest in the rotation should allow him the necessary time it takes to rest his knee and be ready to pitch once every five days. Out of the bullpen, the constant need to be ready at a moment’s notice didn’t give him enough time to recoup after an outing.
“The constant grinding on it in the bullpen doesn’t give it much time to rest,” Niese said. “I think in the rotation, I can get that little extra four days to let it calm down. With that extra time, it might not even flare up at all.”
Collins thinks Niese can help right the ship if his knee stays healthy. He cited Niese’s familiarity with pitching coach Dan Warthen, both of whom joined the Mets in 2008.
“They’ve been together a long, long time,” Collins said. “I know that Dan has talked to him. They do a few things different in Pittsburgh. There are so many shifts — so you pitch to the shifts — and that kind of goes against some of the stuff Jon is comfortable doing.”
Niese pitched fairly well with the Mets in 2015, posting a 4.13 ERA in 176 2⁄3 innings. He made 29 starts and pitched four times out of the bullpen in the regular season before six relief appearances in the playoffs.