PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With raindrops falling around him, Jon Niese completed a successful bullpen session on Monday morning at Mets camp, keeping him on track to pitch April 6 against the Reds. The 45-pitch session marked Niese's first mound work since undergoing an MRI on his sore left elbow last Monday in New York.
"It felt great," Niese said. "It feels good to throw pitches without any pain or soreness, but we'll see how it reacts tomorrow."
Attempting to simulate game action as much as possible, Niese threw 25 pitches, rested for several minutes, then threw 20 more in the session. He is next scheduled to throw 55-60 pitches on Thursday in a Minor League game, putting him on track to make his debut on April 6.
Niese will begin the season on the disabled list, allowing the Mets to carry an extra bench player -- almost certainly outfielder Andrew Brown -- for the first five games of the schedule.
With Niese sidelined, the Mets plan to start Dillon Gee on March 31 against the Nationals, followed by Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Gee and Niese in that order. The team has not officially named Matsuzaka its fifth starter or set its rotation order behind Gee, but club officials have been hinting at that alignment for weeks.
As for Niese, who missed two months last year with a partially torn left rotator cuff before struggling through left shoulder and elbow soreness this spring, he hopes simply that his arm woes are behind him.
"I'm hoping it won't [flare back up]," Niese said. "There are so many things that have happened to me that I can't really say. I've just got to take it day by day, one pitch at a time, and hopefully stay healthy."