NEW YORK -- Following each of his last four starts, Mets left-hander Jon Niese experienced abnormal soreness in his left shoulder, which prevented him from recovering like he wanted. Battling through it, Niese actually responded with his best stretch of the season, posting a 1.33 ERA over his three most recent outings.
But after firing seven innings of one-run ball on Monday against the Yankees, Niese felt sore enough that there was "no way" he could throw his routine between-starts bullpen session. A subsequent MRI exam revealed a bout of left shoulder tendinitis, which Niese hopes will sideline him for only one turn through the rotation.
"I could probably make the next start if I wanted to, but it would be one of those things where I would have to battle this the rest of the year," Niese said. "I just want to get it out of the way, just miss one start rather than let it linger and something worse happens."
With Niese sidelined, right-hander Collin McHugh will make a spot start on Saturday in Miami. Used sparingly out of the bullpen since a mid-May promotion from Triple-A Las Vegas, McHugh has allowed four runs over three innings of relief. Right-hander Zack Wheeler -- the Mets' No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com -- was not a consideration for Saturday's start, according to manager Terry Collins, with team officials quietly continuing to point to mid-June for Wheeler's debut.
Niese, meanwhile, will not attempt to throw until Tuesday. Should all go well, he could slot back into the rotation as soon as June 7 against the Marlins at Citi Field.
If the Mets did not believe Niese could meet that deadline, they would have placed him on the disabled list now in order to promote an extra reliever. Instead, they will proceed with a shorthanded bullpen in the hope that Niese can quickly recover.
"Obviously, the MRI today put me at a lot more ease, being that there's nothing wrong with it structurally," Niese said of his shoulder. "Hopefully, rest will cure it. I'm almost positive that it will."
Niese's relatively lengthy injury history includes leg, oblique and cardiac problems, most of them due to freak issues or injuries. Thanks in part to his clean mechanics, Niese had never experienced arm trouble as a big leaguer until now.
But spending much of this early season battling those trademark mechanics, Niese made a recent effort to raise his arm slot back to where it used to be. He said the alteration may have played a role in his shoulder woes.
Niese continued to pitch through the discomfort simply because, in his words, it was not that bad. He did not feel any pain during starts, only in the days that followed them.
"When you get to know Jon Niese, he's a competitive guy," Collins said. "They pitch through things. All the great ones do."