PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — With Johan Santana sidelined, Jonathon Niese is looking more and more like the New York Mets’ opening day starter.
Niese gave up one run and two hits in five innings Sunday in the Mets’ 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
With Santana still building up arm strength – he hasn’t pitched this spring– Niese appears to be the likely replacement for the April 1 opener against San Diego.
“I’m not convinced, but there’s certainly a strong possibility that’s going to happen,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.
With both clubs sporting some green in their uniforms and playing with green bases on St. Patrick’s Day, Niese struck out four and walked one. He allowed Chris Johnson’s home run in the fourth, Johnson’s third of spring training. The drive went off the scoreboard in left-field.
“It was one of those things,” Niese said. “I got two quick outs and should’ve been pounding the zone there. I nibbled with my changeup and fell behind.”
Bidding to earn the fifth spot in the Braves’ rotation, Julio Teheran allowed a leadoff homer to Jordany Valdespin, then gave up just two more hits. He walked two.
Valdespin’s homer landed on the walkway beside the berm down the right-field line, his fourth home run of the exhibition season.
“He hit a four-seam fastball,” said Teheran. “I was behind in the count, so I tried to get ahead. He was jumping on me. I just tried to stay focused on the game and compete after that.”
Teheran lowered his ERA to 1.35.
“I’ve been trying to make the team and trying to impress them,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been doing good. A lot of things are working better..”
He received some advice during the offseason from a pitcher he idolized, Pedro Martinez. The two had dinner together during winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
“He told me to save my energy for the whole game, and that’s what I’m trying to do this year,” Teheran said. “It was exciting for me because when I was little, I watched him pitch.”
Freddie Freeman hit an RBI single in the sixth off Scott Rice. Johnson had three hits.