TC 'leaning toward' Niese for Opening Day

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
7:37
PM ET
Terry Collins says he is "leaning toward" Jonathon Niese getting another Opening Day start this season, when the Mets open play March 31 against the Washington Nationals.

Collins said he likes to defer to veterans, and the manager described Niese as the "ace of the staff." Collins mentioned Dillon Gee as an alternative.

The one complication seemingly would be if Collins wants to separate righties Bartolo Colon and Zack Wheeler, although Collins offered no indication that was a consideration.

Niese made his first career Opening Day start last season.

• Collins, speaking on the team's television network, said he hopes to guard against another slow start for Ike Davis by getting him 80 to 100 at-bats during spring training, whereas the normal player gets 50 to 60 ABs. For whatever it's worth, Davis got 55 at-bats last Grapefruit League season and then opened the regular season with a .147 average through May 22.

• Adding to Sandy Alderson's comments to ESPNNewYork.com that Lucas Duda could see outfield time, Collins used the word "platoon" to describe a potential outfield role for Duda in 2014.

Chris Young, despite historical struggles against right-handed pitching, should begin the season in an everyday role. So if Duda is getting that much playing time, it almost assuredly means Juan Lagares is a non-starter, and potentially even at Triple-A Las Vegas.

• Collins reiterated what he told ESPNNewYork.com earlier Thursday: Eric Young Jr. is his clear preference as a leadoff hitter. Again, that likely requires severely diminished time for Lagares, with Chris Young taking the center-field job. "This guy was an All-Star center fielder three years ago," Collins said about the ex-Diamondback and Athletic.

Collins mentioned Chris Young, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada as leadoff alternatives, although he specifically said about Murphy: "I don't really like him in that spot."

• Collins again stated that Granderson is due to bat behind David Wright, presumably as the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters. Collins feels teams stopped pitching to Wright during the second half of last season (although that mostly was with Marlon Byrd batting behind Wright).
Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.295 9 54 75
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 27
RBIL. Duda 81
RD. Murphy 75
OPSL. Duda .821
WB. Colon 14
ERAJ. Niese 3.55
SOZ. Wheeler 173