Niese's outing catches Manuel's eye
Young lefty mows down teammates with two perfect innings
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Manager Jerry Manuel knelt in shallow left field on Monday, his hand on a bat and his eyes trained on Jose Reyes. It would have been a typical Spring Training scene, if not for the fact that Reyes wasn't alone. To his left was Luis Castillo. To his right was David Wright. And all around him were members of the Mets, taking part in the first of two rather professional intrasquad games.
The Mets observed nearly every rule of baseball, save for that pesky one about three outs in an inning. And they also ignored whatever rule it is that discourages managers from kneeling in the outfield, barking out advice to their players in uniform.
"I feel like I'm playing," Manuel said. "I like being out there. I really enjoy being behind the shortstop, talking to him. I've got one more day to do that."
The Mets will play one more intrasquad game Tuesday, before Grapefruit League games begin Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. And for Manuel, that might be a shame. His vantage point on Monday afforded him a clear view of Jonathon Niese, the starting pitcher for Sandy Alomar Sr.'s "home team." Niese, an outside candidate for the fifth starter's spot in the rotation, needed just 22 pitches to fire two perfect innings, striking out Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy and inducing four ground balls.
"I thought Niese was very impressive," Manuel said.
Yet impressive might not be good enough for Niese to earn a roster spot out of camp, considering that Tim Redding and Freddy Garcia both own heavier contracts and more extensive big league resumes. Still, if nothing else, it was a confidence boost for the top pitching prospect in the Mets' organization.
"Obviously, my chances are a little bit tougher," Niese said. "All I can do is do my best in Spring Training. If I get the spot, then I get the spot. If not, I'll just keep working."
For the record, Alomar Sr. beat his son's team, 2-0, on the strength of RBI singles from Andy Green and Cory Sullivan. Bobby Parnell fired two perfect innings. Dillon Gee fired two perfect innings. And at a time when pitchers are generally considered to be far closer to midseason form than hitters, Wright, Reyes, Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Castillo, Church and Murphy finished a combined 0-for-13.
"It's just a matter of timing," Manuel said. "For the most part, I was pleased with everything."
Mets bits: Johan Santana is scheduled to make his first appearance of the spring in a split-squad exhibition game against Team Italy on Friday. He will be followed by Mike Pelfrey. ... Other scheduled pitchers include Sean Green, Pedro Feliciano and Duaner Sanchez against the Orioles on Wednesday, Oliver Perez against the Marlins on Thursday at 1:10 p.m., Niese and Parnell against the Cardinals on Friday at 1:10 p.m., Livan Hernandez against the Tigers on Saturday in Lakeland, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. and John Maine against the Astros on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ... The Mets announced that 440,000 people have registered for the opportunity to purchase tickets for their home opener at Citi Field on April 13. Registration on mets.com closes Tuesday night.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.