Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004. Before that he worked for eight years at the NY Daily News, where he was best known for the headline "Clueless Joe" when the Yankees hired Joe Torre. He is also responsible for the lesser-known headline "Yanks Top Tribe in 10." Show More

The best thing that can be said about Jon Niese's start against the Marlins on Saturday is that Mets fans won't have to see him again for six days.

See? The six-man rotation does have an upside.

Niese was not good at all in the Mets' 9-5 loss at Citi Field. He allowed five runs (four earned) in four innings. He was spared a loss when the Mets rallied to tie the score in the fourth before falling behind for good in the seventh on Christian Yelich's two-run single off Hansel Robles.

Niese's performance continued an alarming pattern that has to have Mets decision-makers wondering if they really have six starters who are worth throwing out there when they expand the rotation this week.

"I'm concerned," manager Terry Collins said.

Said Niese: "It's very surprising. It's frustrating more than anything because my arm feels great, my body feels great."

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The way Niese has looked in his last four outings (20 innings, 23 runs, 20 earned runs), Steven Matz would be a better option right now. So would Steven Seagal, Steven Spielberg and Steven Tyler.

Matz, the Ward Melville product, appears to be as ready for the big leagues as Noah Syndergaard was when the Mets called him up. Matz, who is scheduled to start for Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday, is 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA and is batting .350.

Syndergaard was similarly tearing up Triple-A. But remember, Syndergaard still would be in the minors if Dillon Gee hadn't strained his groin May 4.

That start Wednesday in which Syndergaard threw 71/3 shutout innings and hit a 430-foot home run and electrified Citi Field and had a whole new generation of fans discovering Thor comic books?

Wouldn't have happened.


The Mets should spend a little less time worrying about managing innings and a little more about putting the best team out there every day.

It's amazing that in a sport that is more data-driven than ever, the use of innings limits to prevent injuries is accepted as fact even though there is little proof that it works.

Devise the plan to fit the athlete. Don't shoehorn every athlete into the same box. Syndergaard, at 6-6 and 240 pounds, looks as if he could throw a gem, hit a home run and then cut down a forest if he had to. But the Mets don't want him to throw too many innings because that's the new normal.

As for Niese, he won't pitch again until Friday at Arizona because the Mets are going to insert Gee into the rotation on Wednesday in San Diego. Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the six-man rotation could last until August. Ugh.

After his start Friday, Matt Harvey made it clear he's not a fan of the six-man. Ballplayers say they take it one day at a time, but Harvey himself noted the Mets have three days off in June. The Dark Knight can read a calendar.

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"It's something that we're all going to have to manage," Harvey said. "Whatever they decide is up to them. As for us and the staff, we have to do everything we can to stay sharp in between."

How about this instead: Pick your best five starters and pitch them. Put the other guys in the bullpen. If Matz is one of the five best, as we suspect he may be, bring him up. Use Niese or Gee as spot starters when you determine one of the rotation guys needs a breather, but do it because of what you see, not what you fear.

Matz, by the way, is perfectly lined up to start Friday. Niese's day. Just sayin' . . .