JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Jon Niese struggled in his first spring start that was delayed by shoulder trouble, allowing four runs in two innings of the New York Mets' 9-8 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.
The Mets' opening-day starter last season, Niese pitched until June before being sidelined by a partially torn rotator cuff. He returned in August, going 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA the rest of the way. The left-hander allowed six hits and walked two Tuesday.
"It took a little while for me to get going, to get back into the competition, but I felt good," Niese said. "I kind of started off slow and I was kind of able to gradually build up."
Niese said the Mets haven't talked with him about pitching opening day, but it is his goal.
"I think I'm almost there," Niese said. "I'm not 100 percent as far as where I want to be pitches-wise. They are getting more crisp. Obviously, I'm not really consistent now."
The Cardinals tagged Niese for four runs in the second. Kolten Wong hit a two-run homer in the inning, hours after manager Mike Matheny expressed his support for the struggling second baseman.
Shortly after discussing Wong, Matheny interrupted his answer to another question, looked to the field and exclaimed, "Did you see that?" Wong was doing back flips from a flatfooted start after pregame stretch.
Fighting strep throat, Adam Wainwright made only one big mistake in 3 1-3 innings: Josh Satin hit a 2-1 pitch over the center field wall, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead in the second.
Zach Lutz ninth-inning solo homer off closer Trevor Rosenthal provided the Mets margin of victory.
Cardinals: After watching the Cardinals allow 28 runs over two games, Matheny looked for a strong outing from Wainwright. The Cardinals' ace told his manager he'd try to cram seven innings into his 40-pitch limit.
If Wainwright reached the goal? "He said, 'You can hit anywhere in the order all year,'" Wainwright said. "So after the first inning when I threw seven pitches I was like, 'All right! Here we go. I can do this.'"