JUPITER, Fla. - You know how in spring training, the pitchers are usually ahead of the hitters? One important Mets pitcher wasn't Tuesday.
Jonathon Niese, in his first start after a shoulder scare, was knocked around by the Cardinals, allowing four runs and six hits with two walks in two innings. He gave up a two-run home run to Kolten Wong and didn't strike out a batter. Niese threw 50 pitches, 32 for strikes.
But the good news for the Mets is that their leading candidate for the season opener said he is "100 percent" healthy, even if manager Terry Collins conceded he was "worried" when Niese's first fastball was only 79 miles per hour.
"The second pitch was 81," Collins said. "So I was a little concerned about that. But he settled down and pitched OK . . . He said there's no discomfort. So if there's no discomfort, I'm not worried."
Niese, the Mets' Opening Day starter last year, had been held out of exhibition play. He had an MRI late last month after complaining of shoulder pain; the Mets said the test showed weakness in the scapular (shoulder blade) muscles.
Last season, Niese was sidelined from June 21 to Aug. 11 because of a partial tear in his rotator cuff. He came back strong, going 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA.
"My shoulder feels great," Niese said. "My shoulder feels like 100 percent. It doesn't feel weak at all. A lot of velocity has to do with my body being on time, staying closed, just using my whole body instead of my arm, so I think that will come."
Collins said if Niese is not ready for the opener he could start Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee. He did not mention Zack Wheeler.
Josh Satin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Zach Lutz homered in the Mets' 9-8 victory . . . Rafael Montero allowed one run in two innings of relief . . . Daniel Murphy (leg) will return Wednesday . . . Collins said Lucas Duda (hamstring) and Ike Davis (calf) could DH in minor-league games as early as Thursday.