3/24/2014 6:18 P.M. ET
Niese on track after successful 'pen session
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- With raindrops falling around him, Jon Niese completed a successful bullpen session on Monday morning at Mets camp, keeping him on track to pitch April 6 against the Reds. The 45-pitch session marked Niese's first mound work since undergoing an MRI on his sore left elbow last Monday in New York.
"It felt great," Niese said. "It feels good to throw pitches without any pain or soreness, but we'll see how it reacts tomorrow."
Attempting to simulate game action as much as possible, Niese threw 25 pitches, rested for several minutes, then threw 20 more in the session. He is next scheduled to throw 55-60 pitches on Thursday in a Minor League game, putting him on track to make his debut on April 6.
Niese will begin the season on the disabled list, allowing the Mets to carry an extra bench player -- almost certainly outfielder Andrew Brown -- for the first five games of the schedule.
With Niese sidelined, the Mets plan to start Dillon Gee on March 31 against the Nationals, followed by Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Gee and Niese in that order. The team has not officially named Matsuzaka its fifth starter or set its rotation order behind Gee, but club officials have been hinting at that alignment for weeks.
As for Niese, who missed two months last year with a partially torn left rotator cuff before struggling through left shoulder and elbow soreness this spring, he hopes simply that his arm woes are behind him.
"I'm hoping it won't [flare back up]," Niese said. "There are so many things that have happened to me that I can't really say. I've just got to take it day by day, one pitch at a time, and hopefully stay healthy."
Reports: Harvey to rehab elbow at Citi Field
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- An injured elbow alone is not going to keep Matt Harvey out of New York City.
Harvey and the Mets have come to an agreement allowing the right-hander to rehab from Tommy John surgery at Citi Field, according to multiple reports. The Mets will allow Harvey to remain with the team until he is ready to ramp up his rehab program later this summer, according to the reports, at which point he will travel back down to Port St. Lucie.
Through a team spokesman, general manager Sandy Alderson declined comment. The Mets have not confirmed the location of Harvey's rehab.
Alderson made it clear earlier this spring that he preferred to have Harvey work out in Port St. Lucie, where most of the organization's rehab infrastructure is located. Nearly every rehabbing Met, including fellow Tommy John patient Jeremy Hefner, works at the team's Spring Training complex in Florida.
But Harvey lives full-time in Manhattan and said that he relishes the opportunity to be with and learn from his big league teammates. He also has Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement on his side, stipulating that the Mets cannot force him to rehab in Florida for more than 20 days without his written permission.
Harvey hopes to return to the Mets in September, though Opening Day 2015 is a more realistic estimate.
Mets having Flores work at short in Minors
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets may have demoted Wilmer Flores from big league camp, but they are not ending the Flores-to-shortstop experiment just yet.
The team on Monday optioned Flores and three others to Minor League camp, ultimately setting his path toward Triple-A Las Vegas. There, Flores will play shortstop and second base after splitting time between second and third last season.
Flores, 22, is a natural shortstop who converted to third base earlier in his career, after the Mets determined he could not handle the physical demands of the position. But given their organizational weakness at short -- Ruben Tejada, the starter, has struggled mightily without any real threat to his job -- the Mets began redeploying Flores at shortstop earlier this month.
Though he showed some limitations at the position, Flores did not make an error in 42 innings there. He batted only .238, however, with two home runs in 42 at-bats. Tejada is batting .229 in 35 at-bats.
The Mets on Monday also optioned infielder Zach Lutz and outfielders Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker to Minor League camp.
Lutz, 27, had no place on the roster with Josh Satin entrenched as the Mets' backup corner infielder. den Dekker, likewise, had no opening with Juan Lagares and Chris Young both ahead of him on the center-field depth chart.
Nieuwenhuis had an outside chance to make the team given starting pitcher Jon Niese's injury, which will allow the Mets to carry an extra bench player for the first five games of the season. But his demotion signals that Andrew Brown will likely make the Opening Day roster.
Mets name Natera as assistant to Hudgens
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets on Monday joined the growing ranks of big league teams employing assistant hitting coaches, naming Luis Natera to that position under fourth-year hitting coach Dave Hudgens.
Natera, who spent the past seven years as the hitting coach at Double-A Binghamton, is in his 24th season in the Mets' organization. He has served as a hitting coach at every level of the organization -- from Rookie ball to Triple-A -- and has also worked as the coordinator of the Mets' Dominican Academy and managed their Dominican Summer League team.
Mets manager Terry Collins said that with almost every big league ballpark now boasting an indoor batting cage, he wanted a coach available to tutor hitters during games, when Hudgens is busy on the bench.
"With all that action going on in there, I thought it was important to have someone who can actually perhaps get somebody better prepared to come into a game to hit," Collins said. "If there's things that guys are working on -- there are guys that even during a game will have an at-bat and the next inning will go into the cage, take some swings, and we need somebody in there to help them."
Farnsworth to sign new Minors deal with Mets
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A day after the Mets granted him his release to avoid a $100,000 roster retention bonus, Kyle Farnsworth said he was on the verge of re-signing with the organization.
Farnsworth plans to sign a new Minor League deal with the Mets on Tuesday, allowing him to continue working out at the club's Spring Training facility and competing for a job. Though Farnsworth is an extreme longshot to make the Opening Day bullpen, his new deal will allow him to continue pitching once the season starts at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Struggling with his velocity all spring, Farnsworth posted a 5.63 ERA in eight Grapefruit League innings. The Mets originally signed him to a Minor League deal that would have required them to pay him $100,000 to assign him to the Minors.
• The Mets released nine players from Minor League camp: first basemen Chris Garcia and James Roche, outfielders Joe Bonfe and Eris Peguero, right-handed pitchers Cristian Chivilli, Chris Schwinden and Ernesto Yanez, and left-handed pitchers Mark Cohoon and Jhonathan Torres.
• The Mets on Monday announced a two-year extension through 2018 of their marketing and promotional agreement with Caesars Entertainment Corporation. Caesars has an extensive presence at Citi Field, particularly in the Caesars Club, Citi Field's largest hospitality space. The Mets have similar marketing deals in place with Anheuser-Busch, Citi, Delta Air Lines, GEICO, PepsiCo and Verizon.