After spending more than a month on the disabled list with a tear in his left rotator cuff, Mets pitcher Jon Niese is ready to get back on the mound. The southpaw will get that chance against the D-backs on Sunday.
"I wouldn't say anxious," Niese said of his emotions. "I'm pretty excited. I've been there before, and I've been pitching in rehab starts. Obviously, it's not the same as the big leagues, but the arm feels good so I'm just ready to get back out there."
Niese is now free of the soreness he tried to pitch through earlier this season. Even after a lengthy stay on the disabled list, Niese does not regret pitching through pain.
Instead, he is just relieved to have a healthy shoulder.
"It's definitely a relief knowing that I had zero soreness in between rehab starts," Niese said. "Granted, I wasn't throwing that many pitches, but each outing I was building more pitches, and I felt great after each outing. So that's kind of a relief. Hopefully, that keeps going."
Niese takes the hill hoping to continue his upward arc interrupted by injury. After finishing with a 13-9 record and a 3.40 ERA in 2012, he started for New York on Opening Day on April 1.
The success he enjoyed last season shined through in eight quality starts during the left-hander's first 14 outings. He has allowed more than three earned runs only three times in 2013.
"It kind of all just depends on if I'm able to command, which I, for the most part, was able to do in rehab starts," Niese said. "Hopefully, I can have a good feel for everything and be able to command my pitches."
Niese starts opposite right-hander Zeke Spruill, who is coming off a layoff of his own. Spruill, who sports a 6.48 ERA in 8 1/3 innings, last took the mound in a loss to the Rangers on Aug. 1.
Both starters take the mound with something to prove. Niese has extra incentive to finish strong, considering the final two months of 2012 featured his best pitching.
After compiling a 2.57 ERA in 10 starts between August and September last season, Niese hopes to turn another strong finish into a top rotation spot in 2014.
"It's pretty important to me," Niese said of finishing the season on a high note. "Obviously, before I got hurt, I was kind of trying to pitch through some soreness and I really didn't feel like I had my stuff. But hopefully, after this, I can settle down and get my stuff back and help the team win."
D-backs: Eaton's bat waking up
A ninth-inning single on Saturday night helped Adam Eaton extend his hitting streak to four games. He is batting .375 (6-for-16) during the streak.
The recent signs of life have been a welcome sign for Eaton, who made his season debut on July 9 after a strained left elbow landed him on the 15-day disabled list on March 30 (retroactive to March 22).
"He's played better," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "He's young; he's got a lot to learn. A lot of his work was done in the summer league with young kids. He did some at Triple-A, but it wasn't a lot. It's a lot to catch up to. Then once you get here, you have to get your legs back under you."
Mets: Flores bringing runners home
New York third baseman Wilmer Flores has provided the Mets with an offensive spark since making his MLB debut on Tuesday. He has recorded at least one RBI in each of his past four games.
He matched career-high marks with two hits and three RBIs on Saturday, upping his season RBI total to eight in 19 at-bats.
• D-backs second baseman Aaron Hill hit a solo homer in the seventh inning of Saturday night's 4-1 loss to the Mets. The home run was Hill's first since he left the yard against the Cubs on July 25.
• Arizona's Brandon McCarthy recorded his first quality start since May 24 on Saturday, giving up only two runs in seven innings. He missed all of June and July with right shoulder inflammation.
• With two walks on Saturday, Ike Davis has earned 18 free passes in his past 17 games dating back to July 24. Only Mike Trout of the Angels has more walks (21) during that span.
• Saturday's victory improved the Mets' record in games started by Zack Wheeler to 7-3.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.