- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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JUPITER, Fla. -- Jonathon Niese had an unsightly line in his first 2014 Grapefruit League outing: 2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.
But after the southpaw's 50-pitch effort against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, Niese pronounced the shoulder that had sent him to New York two weeks ago for an MRI fine.
New York Mets
Niese added that his velocity, which was in the upper 80s during this outing, should rise as he dusts off rust and cleans up his mechanics so that he is throwing with his entire body instead of only his arm.
"I looked up. I hit 89 miles per hour," Niese said. "I don't know if that's down, for the first outing. It took a little while for me to get going, get back into the competition. But I felt good. I kind of started off slow and was able to gradually build up."
Niese is due to make three more exhibition appearances before getting the Opening Day assignment March 31 against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field. He believes that is enough time.
"I think so. I'm at 50 pitches, so I'm halfway to 100," Niese said. "I would have liked to have done it in more than two innings. I guess it is what it is. I don't feel like my pitches are as crisp. I think some of that might have to do with mechanics. But as far as my arm, it feels better and better each time. That's a good sign."
As for cleaning up his mechanics, Niese said: "I think it's just repetition. The more times I get off a mound, the better it will be."
Niese escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning that included a botched double-play attempt by Wilmer Flores and Omar Quintanilla behind him. He then surrendered a two-run homer to Kolten Wong and a two-run double to Allen Craig in the second.
"Just a crappy cutter," Niese said about the offering on the Wong homer. "It was just a cutter that felt like I released it in the back of my head instead of out in front of me."
Niese would be making his second straight Opening Day start.
"I'm not 100 percent as far as where I want to be pitching-wise, but I think they're getting more crisp," Niese said. "Some of the pitches, obviously I'm not really consistent right now."
As for his fastball velocity, which has averaged 90.2 mph during his career, he said: "I think that will come. I don't think it has anything to do with the arm being weak."