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Friday, March 1, 2013
Mets 6, Tigers 2: Niese tosses 3 scoreless

By Adam Rubin

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Justin Verlander tossed three perfect innings. But the Mets got a tiebreaking RBI single from David Wright in the fifth against closer Bruce Rondon and added a two-run single from Justin Turner an inning later en route to a 6-2 win against the Detroit Tigers on Friday at Tradition Field.

Turner went 2-for-3 with a run scored and steal.

Jonathon Niese tossed three scoreless innings, allowing three hits, and struck out three. Both Tigers runs came against Gonzalez Germen, who surrendered five hits in the fifth before stranding the bases loaded. Niese has been wearing a brace on his right knee, which was "a little sore at the end of last year," he said.

Niese added that he wears the brace "just to keep it a little tight."

"I'm guessing fatigue," Niese said about the problem at the end of last season. "There's no issue."

On Verlander’s performance, Terry Collins said: “If you write down the top five pitchers in baseball, and I don’t care what league you’re in, he’s in the top five. And he might be the top of all of them. I don’t know if you guys noticed, but the last guy he faced [Matt den Dekker], he threw him a slider and he made a bad pitch with it. He told the catcher [he’ll] throw it again. And he did. And we still beat it into the ground. That’s pretty good when you can do that.”

The Mets (2-3-2) snapped a five-game winless streak in Grapefruit League play.

Game tidbits:

WHAT OUTFIELD? Kirk Nieuwenhuis went 0-for-3 and is now hitless in his last 15 Grapefruit League at-bats.

“Actually, I thought today he took some better swings,” Collins said. “He was getting the bat out front better. He was getting it through the zone a little bit better.

“We know he can defend. When you’re looking at den Dekker, when you’re looking at Nieuwenhuis, we know they can go catch the baseball. They’ve got to show us they can help produce runs, be it get on base and score, or drive in runs. They’re going to continue to get a lot of at-bats as we go through the spring and play different positions and start.

“When you’re looking at that center-field spot, we know what (righty-hitting) Collin Cowgill can do against left-handed pitching. It would be nice to know we’ve got some production from the left side if need be against right-handed pitching.

“Right now, those are the two leading guys.”

In reality, it's improbable den Dekker makes the Opening Day roster. And that's for an additional reason besides den Dekker needing to make more contact. It’s because the Mets already have a 40-man roster crunch, and den Dekker is not currently on the 40.

Instead, Nieuwenhuis -- seemingly the logical person to platoon with Cowgill in center -- might have to be wary of Jordany Valdespin, who went 1-for-3 with a steal against the Tigers. Valdespin is hitting .429 in Grapefruit League play. Collins told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday that Valdespin soon would start playing the outfield in spring-training games.

Nieuwenhuis, by the way, had a hand wrapped after being hit there and his helmet with a pitch.

INJURY UPDATES: Collins said Daniel Murphy, who hit off a tee today, is about 10 days from getting at-bats in a game. … Pedro Feliciano tossed a light bullpen session while wearing a heart monitor. “He’s got to have that monitor not only on his chest, but he has to have the [device] in his back pocket,” Collins said. “It’s got to be a little uncomfortable for him.”

WRIGHT SPOT: In Wright’s absence, Collins said Zach Lutz, Turner, Brandon Hicks, Brian Bixler and Josh Satin would see action at third base.

Collins added that the righty hitters  Lutz and Turner will start getting outfield duty later in camp, once cuts are made and Murphy returns.