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Niese downplays Collins' assertion of stiff back

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NEW YORK -- Jon Niese downplayed manager Terry Collins' assertion that he has been pitching with stiffness in his lower back, saying he felt "a knot" in his back after his last start, but that it did not affect him as he gave up seven runs over four innings Sunday in Atlanta.

Niese walked six batters in that outing and now has 20 strikeouts and 19 walks in 36 2/3 innings -- by far the worst strikeout and walk rates of his career.

Regardless, Niese said, health is not the issue. He expects to make his next start as scheduled on Saturday against the Pirates.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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