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STL@NYM: Niese talks about what he learned from 2010

Jonathon Niese had a solid first full season in the Majors a year ago. Now the Mets lefty is ready to take the next step, and he knows he'll have to get off to a good start in order for that to happen.

The 24-year-old southpaw's quest begins Saturday at Sun Life Stadium against the Marlins, as the Mets look to bounce back from a 6-2 Opening Day loss.

"It is very important to get off to a good start and obviously to stay consistent through the whole year and finish strong," Niese said. "That's going to be a primary focus for me: to get off to a good start, stay consistent, and then to finish strong."

Niese speaks from experience. Last year, he posted a 3.10 ERA in his first five starts. He finished the year 9-10 with a 4.20 ERA, and between that showing and his work this spring, Niese became the Mets' No. 2 starter.

He doesn't take starting the season's second game lightly.

"There's a lot of people and a lot of baseball players wanting to be in our shoes right now," Niese said Friday. "It's really a blessing. I'm excited for today obviously to get the year going, and tomorrow with the first start. The butterflies will be there obviously, but that's a good feeling. I like that feeling."

Opposing Niese is Florida right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who missed the first half of Spring Training due to a sprained right thumb. Last year, his fourth in the Majors, Nolasco went 14-9 with a 4.51 ERA. In his final spring outing, Nolasco scattered two hits in six scoreless innings against the Cardinals, at one point retiring 15 consecutive batters.

Collins pumps up Mets with pregame speech

• For any New York players who weren't already excited to finally begin playing games that count, skipper Terry Collins gave what R.A. Dickey called an "emphatic" pregame speech Thursday. "I detected a sense of urgency," Dickey said. "That's something we all want to do is get out of the gate well." Although the Mets haven't been picked by many pundits to do much better than last year's 79-83 finish, Collins said he feels an air of confidence surrounding the club. "They certainly know they're a good team, that they've got ability, that they should be able to compete," Collins said.

• Fifth starter Chris Capuano isn't needed during the first trip through the rotation, so the right-hander is spending the season's first week on call in the bullpen. Despite being stretched out to operate as a starter, Capuano said he didn't think it would take him long to warm up, especially in Miami. "They've told me that they're going to give me plenty of time to get ready," Capuano said. "I assume that means typically starting an inning, but it's not going to take me long to get ready in this weather."

• Lucas Duda likely will start in left field on Saturday. He should be playing there regularly for as long as Jason Bay (rib cage) is on the disabled list.

Ramirez hopes to erupt in 2011

• Hanley Ramirez is looking forward to this season from a team and personal standpoint. After a down year by his standards in 2010 (.300 average, 21 homers and 76 RBIs), Ramirez is looking to return to his 2009 form, when he was the NL batting champion with a .341 average. Marlins skipper Edwin Rodriguez believes that's just what will happen. "I think we're going to see the old Hanley, not only on the field," Rodriguez said. "I think we're going to see the Hanley of '09. He's ready. He's physically ready and mentally ready to put up the performance he did in 2009."

• Like Ramirez, Chris Coghlan also is confident this season will be better than last. After the Marlins rallied to beat the Braves on July 25, 2010, Coghlan tore a ligament in his knee while shoving a shaving cream-filled towel in the face of Wes Helms, who delivered a walk-off single. Now the former NL Rookie of the Year winner is ready to perform like he did in 2009. "I'm excited. It's going to be a great year," Coghlan said. "I'm just going to continue to take care of my body and not pie anyone in the face. I think I should be all right."

Worth noting
For the second straight Opening Day, the Mets and Marlins squared off. And for the second straight season, the home team won. New York bested Florida, 7-1, last year at Citi Field. ... Logan Morrison, who made his debut on July 28 of last year, homered on the first Opening Day of his career. ... Nolasco has struggled against the Mets in his career (5-6, 5.46 ERA in 20 games, 18 starts), but found success against them last season. In 2010, Nolasco was 2-0 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts against New York.

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