New York Mets' Jonathon Niese pitches against the Minnesota Twins...

New York Mets' Jonathon Niese pitches against the Minnesota Twins in the second inning, Sunday. (June 27, 2010) Credit: AP

Jon Niese's mind is finally at ease.

No longer does he worry about his achy right leg, nor is he concerned about his once-wayward curveball. And with every passing start since his return from the disabled list three weeks ago, his confidence continues to grow.

"With my hammy being sore, there was regular soreness and I was kind of hesitant a little bit in my mechanics. I wasn't balanced enough," said the 23-year-old Mets lefthander, who had right hamstring surgery last year and then had some issues with the hamstring earlier this season. "But after I tore up the scar tissue, I really had no soreness, no nothing. It's been able to keep me more balanced and I'm able to throw more strikes that way."

Niese pitched another gem yesterday, allowing four hits in six innings-plus in a 6-0 win over the Twins. He is 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his past five starts despite a rough outing last week that wasn't really his fault.

Niese was derailed by a 58-minute rain delay and an eight-run inning by the Mets that staked him to a 10-0 lead against Detroit. After pitching no-hit ball for the first three innings, he gave up six runs and seven hits in the next 1 2/3 innings and couldn't get the 15th out he needed to qualify for the win in the Mets' 14-6 win. "Bad outings happen,'' he said, "and all you can do is just put it behind you and move on to the next one."

Yesterday's heat and humidity were far more tolerable for Niese, who allowed one hit through his first four innings. He also escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fifth by striking out Twins starter Scott Baker and retiring Denard Span on a groundout.

"He's been a good young pitcher," manager Jerry Manuel said after Niese improved to 5-2 with a 3.84 ERA. "You know at some point, he's going to go through his ups and downs, especially during the course of the early part of his career. You've seen some missteps here and there, but for the most part, he's pitched very well."

"He's been on a roll," Jason Bay said. "He's throwing the ball as well as anybody we have right now. Since he's come back, he's not a different guy but just so consistent, and it shows. With anyone, you never really know how you'll come back. Some guys figure it out; some guys come back better. And he has."

Now that his hamstring no longer is an issue, Niese is focused on just one thing: pitching.

"It feels good," he said of his recent success. "It makes it easier with Rod [Barajas] and Henry [Blanco] behind the plate. They call great games, and really all I have to do is follow them and execute my pitches and it usually turns out to be a good game."

Niese was taken out after he walked leadoff batter Danny Valencia in the seventh. He said he understood Manuel's decision.

"I'll never be frustrated with the coaching staff and the decisions they make," said Niese, who threw 104 pitches. "I always trust their judgments, and whatever they say goes."

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