NEW YORK -- Turns out the New York Mets were concerned with a lot more than just Jonathon Niese's back when the left-handed pitcher was pulled after recording one out in Friday night's game.
The Mets placed Niese on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday due to a left shoulder strain. The transaction happened less than 48 hours after Niese was hit in the back by a line drive and pulled from the game after recording just one out against the Texas Rangers at Citi Field.
At the time, manager Terry Collins said the Mets didn't want Niese to risk pitching
with a broken rib as the back stiffened up. But Collins said Sunday morning -- before
the Mets beat the Rangers 8-4 -- that Niese had acknowledged his shoulder felt tired in recent weeks. Niese's average fastball velocity is 88.6 mph this year, down from 90.2 last season.
Collins also said the Mets began growing concerned about Niese on June 28, when he walked three straight batters -- including two with the bases loaded -- in the fourth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Niese ended up recovering and earned the win by tossing six innings in the Mets' 5-3 victory, but he appeared off again on Friday, when he gave up a homer to Rangers left fielder Shin-Soo Choo and an infield single to shortstop Elvis Andrus before absorbing the line drive off the bat of center fielder Alex Rios.
"You don't need radar guns to tell you there's something going on here, you know what I mean?" Collins said Sunday morning. "This guy lives and dies with that good two-seamer and his cutter and that crisp breaking ball. And we haven't seen that in the (last) two starts."
This is Niese's third trip to the disabled list for an arm injury in the last 13 months, though Collins said Sunday afternoon that he expects Niese to miss just one start before rejoining the Mets' rotation immediately after the All-Star break.
Niese missed more than seven weeks last season due to a partial tear of his rotator cuff. He was sidelined at the start of spring training with a "pinching" sensation in his left shoulder and then battled left elbow discomfort after making two Grapefruit
League appearances. Niese began the season on the disabled list, though he came off in time to pitch on April 6.
Niese has been the Mets' best pitcher since returning from last year's injury -- he
is 12-9 with a 2.98 ERA in his last 27 starts, including 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA in 17 starts this season -- and the Mets are hoping another midseason break will continue to yield impressive results.
"Second half last year was outstanding," Collins said. "And it came due to the fact
he spent a little time (on the DL) and got his arm strength back in his shoulder after he had the issues. He came out in the second half and was great and that's kind of where we're leaning now."