NEW YORK -- When the Mets envision a rotation of the future, Jonathon Niese certainly figures into the plans. At just 26, the starting pitcher was New York's Opening Day starter -- the ace in a time before Matt Harvey was the essence of dominance that he's become.
An injury has derailed the left-hander as the rest of the rotation's future has emerged in his absence. Rookie Zack Wheeler debuted three days before Niese went on the disabled list with a rotator cuff injury, and Jenrry Mejia has recaptured some of the brilliance he briefly displayed as a rookie.
Niese said he "should be ready for Sunday" to rejoin that bunch after making a final rehab appearance with Double-A Binghamton on Tuesday. The starting pitcher tossed five innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four in a win over Double-A Altoona.
"Each one of my rehab starts have felt pretty strong," Niese said. "Velocity's been back, and the command, for the most part, has been where I wanted it."
The Mets have still not announced a starter for Sunday's series finale against the Diamondbacks, but manager Terry Collins indicated on Tuesday that if all went well in Niese's rehab start he would likely return for that series.
As for whether he'll be at full strength remains another question. The lefty has been on the disabled list since June 21 with a partial tear of his left rotator cuff. He threw 80 pitches in his final rehab start and said he should be good to throw about 95 in his next outing, though he could potentially top the 100-pitch plateau.
"We'd like to get him to where 80 and 90 would be easy," Collins said, "so therefore you've got to condition the arm to be able to throw 100 or more."
Niese said his injury likely won't be totally healed until the offseason, when he'll "have the time to take to heal it." It won't change his offseason program at all, and it won't change the way New York handles him too much. The club will keep a closer eye on him but would like to get him back to that 100-pitch ability.
"We try to take care of all our pitchers," Collins said. "And obviously, as the game goes on -- as the game gets deeper -- we'll make sure that if there's any signs of fatigue, any signs of dropping his arm, those types of things where it looks like his shoulder's getting tired, we'll be on top of that."
Duda activated from DL, optioned to Triple-A
NEW YORK -- Satisfied with their current outfield mix and unsure of Lucas Duda's potential role in it, the Mets on Wednesday activated Duda from the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Las Vegas. This marks the second time in two years that Duda has been optioned.
"I hope he just goes and tears it up and comes back," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But with what we've got in the outfield and what Ike's done so far, I don't know where we're going to put him. He got here once; he'll get back here."
Duda, 27, still had about a week remaining on his Minor League rehab assignment, which could have run a maximum of 20 days. But knowing they did not have a spot for him at the big league level, the Mets made the proactive move of shuttling their former starting left fielder to Las Vegas.
Duda had been sidelined since June 22 with a strained left intercostal. At the time, he was an integral part of the team, batting .235 with 11 home runs, 23 RBIs and a .791 OPS in 68 games.
But in his absence, the Mets have grown reliant on a more defensive-minded starting alignment of Marlon Byrd, Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr. Widely considered a poor defensive outfielder, Duda -- a natural first baseman -- would have disrupted that mix.
"Somebody doesn't deserve to not play," Collins said of his three starting outfielders. "So right now, with Lucas [having been] out for a while, he's just got to go play [in the Minors]."
Davis showing noticeable improvement since return
NEW YORK -- Something certainly clicked for Ike Davis during his trip out to Triple-A Las Vegas. As the boos grew louder and louder within the confines of Citi Field, he was getting on base at an unseemly .242 rate.
After nearly a month in the Minors working on his swing, he's returned to the Mets an improved player. The New York fans still boo when they can, but those opportunities have become less frequent.
Four games into this current six-game homestand, Davis has been on base in 10 of his 12 plate appearances. Since his return to the Majors, a stretch of 26 games, he's batting .282 with a .446 OBP and .868 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
"He's obviously laying off pitches he was swinging at early," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
That's helped him get on base at a better rate, even if he's not driving the ball with the power he's shown he has. Davis has hit just six home runs this season and just one in the month since his return to New York. That could be the attribute to come.
On Tuesday he hit a pair of doubles and walked twice in the Mets' 3-2 win over the Rockies. Now at .195, his average is creeping toward the Mendoza Line, and his OBP is up to .304, marking the first time that it's been better than .300 this season.
He even made a spectacular diving grab in foul territory to end Tuesday's game. Of course, the crowd was still near its loudest when it booed an error by the first baseman early in the game. He's still a work in progress, but he's giving New York a bit of an added punch in the middle of the lineup that he wasn't providing early in the year.
"He's done a better job of getting something to hit, something he can handle," Collins said. "That's why I think you're seeing him get on base the way he's gotten on."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.