NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Mets have plenty of perceived weaknesses heading into Opening Day, but their starting rotation is not one of them.
Even without Matt Harvey, who isn’t expected to pitch in 2014, New York’s impressive staff consists of Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler. Jenrry Mejia, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan are expected to compete for the fifth spot.
So with spring training now in full swing, it begs the question: Who will get the nod on Opening Day?
It may depend on who’s healthy.
Niese was expected to get the ball in the season opener on March 31 when the Mets take on the Nationals at Citi Field.
But the 27-year-old told manager Terry Collins on Wednesday that his arm feels “dead.” Niese is headed to New York to get an MRI on his shoulder.
“Batting practice started and he felt fine,” Collins said. “And then he threw his second 20 pitches the other day. He just said at the end of it, ‘Geez, my arm’s just dead. Like, it’s dead.'”
Collins called the evaluation “a precaution.”
“But any time you’re sending someone for an MRI, obviously there’s going to be a concern until you get the reading back,” he said.
The left-hander started Opening Day last year against the Padres in Queens. He allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings and earned the win.
“Last year when there was pain it was difficult to do everyday things, such as turn a steering wheel or put on a belt,” Niese said, according to MLB.com. “…There’s no pain with any of that now, so I don’t foresee it being serious at all.”
Colon — who the Mets signed to a two-year, $20 million deal in December — is projected to start the second game of the season with Gee taking the hill in the third.
Wheeler and the fifth starter will likely make their season debuts against the Reds in the second series, which will also be played at Citi Field.
The schedule, of course, could be altered depending on potential injuries and weather-related issues.
Niese could square off against Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann rounding out the series for Washington.
Gee’s success against the Nats in 2013 may have played into the decision to have him start in the opening series. The 27-year-old, who was excellent for New York in last season’s second half, went 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA against the National League East rivals.
Wheeler — who went 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts in his rookie campaign — went on record as saying that he wanted to be the Opening Day starter, but it’s not surprising that he wasn’t given that assignment.
It was expected to come down to Niese and Colon, who went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA for the A’s in 2013.
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