Jon Niese

Jon Niese Credit: Newsday file photo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Mets want Jon Niese to be their fifth starter and have Fernando Nieve available for a bullpen role. But for that to happen, both will have to pitch better than they did Wednesday in the Mets' 7-6 loss to the Braves at Champion Stadium.

Niese allowed three hits and three runs in two innings as his ERA climbed to 7.71 in two starts. What bothered Jerry Manuel the most, however, was that Niese walked two batters. Unlike other members of the rotation, Niese doesn't have the luxury of working on things at game-speed. The results matter, and if not now, they will soon.

"I need to get outs," Niese said. "From here on out, that's all I'm working on. During my bullpens, I'll work on my pitches. In games, I have to get outs."

Niese, a Manuel favorite, does have some margin for error. "We're going to keep giving him an opportunity," Manuel said. "We'll keep stretching him out and hopefully his command will get better. We know if he commands his pitches, we'll get a really good pitcher."


'Animal' for the bench?

Chris Carter previously was known as one those traded for Billy Wagner. But after Carter homered for the third time in three at-bats, including twice Monday in the ninth inning, he's getting noticed as a lefthanded-hitting candidate off the bench.

"I don't know if we found him a position," Manuel said. "But he's a guy that we'd have to consider after opening our eyes as a pinch hitter. He's got a real short stroke. That's what you want in a pinch hitter."

Carter, a first baseman / outfielder, has a nickname. "Chris 'The Animal' Carter," Manuel said. "That's my name for him. I see him in there on the bike every morning." . . . Pitcher Melvin Colon (Dominican Summer League) was suspended 50 games for testing positive for metabolites of Nandrolone.